Sunday, February 14, 2010

Interview w/Kristi Yamaguchi from Feb/Mar Issue of Working Mother

Just in time for the Winter Olympic Games, US gold medalist and TODAY special correspondent Kristi Yamaguchi reflects on her lifelong love of skating and her exciting projects off the ice in an exclusive interview with Working Mother magazine.

Included are excerpts from the interview. The article is found in the February/March issue of Working Mother, which features its first celebrity mom cover in years. You can read the full interview by visiting the Working Mother Web site, and see a gallery of the most powerful moms in sports here.

US Olympic gold medalist, World Figure Skating Hall of Fame inductee, 2008 Dancing with the Stars champion and dedicated philanthropist—the accomplished Kristi Yamaguchi is beautiful both inside and out. Yamaguchi sits down with Working Mother magazine for a frank discussion on balancing home and high-profile career; life with her husband, former NHL player Bret Hedican; motherhood’s biggest surprise and lessons she’s learned along the way.

On winning gold at the 1992 Olympic figure skating championship:
“Winning in women’s singles felt surreal. I felt that everything I had done—the hard work, the tough times—was all worth it.”

On winning Dancing with the Stars:
“It was pretty crazy. It was a huge commitment. But I had an amazing partner in Mark Ballas, and I loved learning another craft and having a peek into that world. It was a blast, a lot of fun, challenging and exhausting.”

On the Always Dream Foundation she launched in 1996:
“My eyes were opened from the work I did with the Make-A-Wish Foundation after the Olympics. I loved what we were doing. My own foundation picks and chooses causes to support. Having achieved my own dreams, I want to give to kids who are less fortunate, who struggle with everyday obstacles. I want to give them something positive in their lives: support.”

On what inspired her to skate:
“I was born with clubfeet, and I had plaster casts on my legs from when I was a couple of months old until age 1. When the casts came off, I wore corrective shoes connected by a brace to turn my feet until I was about 2. The braces hurt my legs a lot, and I remember trying to walk with a bar in between my feet—I had to shuffle. I was lucky they corrected it when I was so young. Skating wasn’t assigned to me, but when I wanted to skate, the doctors said it would help. I expressed an interest when I was about 4 or 5.”

On training while growing up:
“From sixth grade on, at 4:00 a.m. [my mom would] take me to the rink. I’d practice from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., while my mom sat there. And sometimes after school I’d practice again. Sundays were my day off. She’d travel with me to competitions a couple of times a month.”

On her love of skating:
“As a teenager especially, I just wanted to do my thing and not be noticed. But even at 6 years old, the ice became a place for me to express myself. Because I was so shy off the ice, it became my safe haven, with music and freedom and self-expression. That was my emotional outlet. I look back now and can’t believe I found such passion for skating at such a young age.”

On life lessons she learned on the ice:
“I learned to put 100 percent into what you’re doing. I learned about setting goals for yourself, knowing where you want to be and taking small steps toward those goals. I learned about adversity and how to get past it.”

On her heritage’s impact on her success:
“I think the values my parents passed down to me helped in my success. As the first Asian American to win the gold in figure skating, I received a tremendous amount of support from the Asian community. They were so proud. I have a lot of gratitude for earlier generations.”

On the pressures of balancing work and home:
“In my twenties I never thought I’d still be working this hard in my thirties. I do feel lucky that I did a lot of my skating, which would have been hard on me as a mom, early on—all that touring and living on the road. I’m happy I’m still busy—off the ice. I still juggle. Sometimes I think I overextend myself because I’m traveling too much and am away from the kids. It’s fine line to find that balance. These days I make business decisions based on whether something is worth my time away from my kids.”

On family life:
“It depends on the season or the week. If nothing is going on, I get the kids ready for school. We’re trying to be a normal family. We all have dinner together as much as possible. [. . .] Bret and I share the responsibility of meals. If we’re grilling meat, he does it. I’m not a fancy cook­—I’ll make a pork loin or Japanese breaded chicken, chicken stir-fry, spaghetti.” 

On motherhood:
“I’ve realized how precious life is. When I was younger, I was more adventurous. I felt invincible. I was game for everything. As a mom, I don’t want to get injured because then I can’t take care of my kids. Even getting on an airplane, I’m more conscious of . . . Like they say, once you have a child, your heart is forever outside your body. I totally understand that now.”

-Courtesy of the Feb/Mar issue of Working Mother

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