On February 18, the Colgate Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular airs on ABC and Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi will take the ice, this time as a host. She joins co-hosts three-time national figure skating champion Michael Weiss, gymnast Bart Conner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and Nadia Comaneci, who also has an Olympic gold in gymnastics.
We caught up with Yamaguchi before the show, and asked what audiences can expect from the star-studded program. “They’re both sports that combine artistry and technical elements, so it’s a fun, family-friendly show,” she explained. She also spoke of the sense of comradery felt amongst the group of fellow former pro athletes, saying, “It’s always great to get together and support each other and to continue to be a part of skating 25 years later.”
We also talked to the iconic hostess about her storied career, family, philanthropic work and stint on Dancing with the Stars.
After winning a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics, she became a worldwide household name. When asked how she handled the fame that followed, she said:
It’s intimidating at first…It’s strange when strangers come up to you and feel like they know you. People have always been very supportive and friendly. I think that’s the interesting thing as an athlete, especially an Olympic athlete, is that feeling of how much they were really rooting for you during the competition.
In 2000, she married ex-professional hockey player and two-time Olympian Bret Hedican. The pair originally met at the ’92 Olympics and she admits that his hockey skills were part of the initial attraction. “When we met it was just similar lifestyles, things that we were going through in our lives, so it obviously made for a perfect storm,” she said. She credits her husband for his unwavering support of all her endeavors over the years, which include children’s book author and a clothing line of active wear.
The athletic couple has two daughters, Keara, 13, and Emma, 11. Emma is following in her mother’s footsteps by taking skating lessons, but Yamaguchi said it’s too early to tell if she will decide to pursue it professionally. “I think there’s still a lot of great lessons to learn participating in a sport like skating,” she said.
The 45-year-old launched the Always Dream Foundation and the philanthropy just celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. The organization works with underprivileged children to promote literacy, which Yamagchi feels is critical to a young person’s success in school and life. “The last five years we focused on early literacy and bringing reading programs into underserved kindergarten classrooms,” she explained about their worthwhile mission.
In 2008, the pro on the ice decided to try her talents on the dance floor, and won Season 6 of Dancing with the Stars. With the new season of the show beginning on March 20th, we asked if she got the inside scoop on the upcoming competitors:
I have no idea who’s competing. It’s also exciting to wait and hear what the announcements are…I actually haven’t heard anything coming up for this next season. It’s gonna be hard to come off of this last one with a couple of Olympians. It was really an incredible season.