Kristi Yamaguchi talks with ABC7

March 24, 2008 12:02:43 PM PDT
Bay Area native and Olympic figure skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi is competing on the dance floor on ABC's hit show "Dancing with the Stars." After her debut last week - critics are calling Kristi the favorite. We sat down with her family in the East Bay and found out what they think about that, and why the skating star has been keeping a low profile in recent years.She has proven her skills on ice, but on the dance floor, Fremont native Kristi Yamaguchi says she's a "nervous novice," Not that you would have known from her debut last week on "Dancing with the Stars."

Kristi's father Jim and sister Lori understand how an Olympic champion used to being judged could have butterflies as a contestant on the show.

"That's you know - a lot of expectation and pressure," said Lori Yamaguchi, Kristi's sister.

Kristi is thought to have an advantage because of her grace and performing experience from skating. Which she started at age six, but this is her first time stepping back into the spotlight in a long time.

"For the last four years I've been a mom, hanging out, being a hockey wife," said Kristi Yamaguchi.

She's been living in North Carolina, starting a family with professional hockey player Bret Hedican. She met him at the Albertville Olympics 16-years ago. Kristi has been a full-time mom to two girls. No ice tours, no TV appearances.

Then, one of her favorite shows came calling.

"The second season with Jerry Rice was on it, my family - we're huge 49er fans. So we got into it then," said Kristi Yamaguchi.

And now Kristi has her chance to go for the gold. She's been training for the past month, practicing up to six hours a day with her partner Mark Ballas, breaking what she calls bad ice skating habits.

"Obviously I'm not used to pointing my toes, heels and toes, keeping my legs straight," said Kristi Yamaguchi.

Kristi seems to have overcome those issues. The judges last week gave her the highest score ever for a premier performance.

Kristi's sister Lori and brother Brett were in the studio audience last week and dad will be there tonight.

"Well I think she has a good chance, but win or lose -- I hope she has fun with it," said Jim Yamaguchi, Kristi's dad.

And looking ahead, Kristi plans to move back to the Bay Area this year, so her kids can grow up with their cousins. The Olympic champion who realized her American dream will be able to devote more time to her Oakland-based foundation for children called "Always Dream." The foundation is currently building a playground in her hometown of Fremont for children with disabilities.

A lot to look forward to, but for now, her big sister just wants Kristi to enjoy this ride.

"My advice to her would be to make new friends, have fun and if she has fun, she'll be relaxed, and that'll serve her well as she progresses through the competition," said Lori Yamaguchi.