The figure skating champ and member of the U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame talks about “Dancing With the Stars” and her future in skating, and shares advice with TODAY fans.
Q. You have such a drive to excellence. From the Olympics to "Dancing With the Stars" to your personal life, you strive for the best. Did you ever have a time you didn't think you could do something, or you wanted to quit? What did you do to overcome that feeling and move beyond it?
— Laura Butler, Lone Tree, Colo.
A. Yes, there was. A year before the Olympics was kind of a tough year. I had a lot of doubt. I placed second three times in the U.S. Championships, and a lot of doubts popped up. To overcome that, I went back to simplicity. Why was I skating? Why was I doing all of this? Because I loved it, and couldn't imagine life without it. It reinspired me skate for myself rather than for my judges or other people. It brought back the joy of skating.
Q. I am a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and have been watching you skate since you were a little girl. I watched you on "Dancing With the Stars" and I was wondering, which was harder — skating or dancing?
— Dolores Rafferty, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
A. Both are difficult in their own right. We had to pick up on dancing so quickly, and perform right away without mastering. Obviously, it's not what professional dancers do, but we just had to get good enough to perform. Skating for me was much more intense — it was my life, so I felt much more pressure for that.
Q. Has your stint on "Dancing With the Stars" impacted your skating? In what way?
— Chi Chi DiShanni, Costa Mesa, Calif.
A. I'm not really skating that much right now, but I definitely feel it would have a positive impact on my skating performance. I learned a lot about performance and body movement — how to bring that out more in my routine and expressing the music more. I'm not performing like I did five or six years ago, but it definitely would have helped.
Q. What is the best advice you have been asked to give or voluntarily gave another figure skater?
— Ellen Lewison, Hudson, Wis.
A. I recently worked with a young pairs team who won the junior national title. The best advice I gave to them and that I can give to anyone is to stay positive, know that you're trained and ready. Once you're on the ice, you don't want to leave with any regrets. Do what you trained for, and you can be happy with your performance.
Q. My 12-year-old daughter is a competitive figure skater who has Olympic dreams. She trains on ice only three to four days per week due to limited ice time. We encourage off-ice exercise, but she gets bored with it. What type of off-ice training did you do at her age, and what do you recommend to enhance her skating and keep her motivated?
— Robyn Margulis, Northfield, N.J.
A. When I was 12 (that was a long time ago) there really wasn't as much knowledge about cross-training. At that age, kids are still growing, so they have to be careful, especially with strength training. But any kind of dance is great — ballet, Pilates — these are things that will enhance her look on ice plus give her strength. I also did abdominal exercises and cardio like the elliptical and bike. At 12, she shouldn't do much more than that.
Q. I have forever wondered what the jewelry is that you wear as a necklace? It's such an interesting piece and I would like to know if I could purchase one. It was such a part of your costumes, which have all been so lovely.
— Deidra S. Sarault-Sarjent
A. Usually I wear a platinum heart that was given to me by my husband. He gave it to me after our first daughter born. It's platinum with pave diamonds, and he got it at Tiffany's.
Q. What is your favorite way to spend a date with your husband?
— Kathy, Billings, Mont.
A. These days — anything! Having a nice dinner at a restaurant and watching a movie, anything to just spend time together. We are both so busy and having two small kids, we don't get out as much as we used to.
Q. What are your plans in regard to figure skating? Any chance you will be skating more in the coming season?
— Kristin, St. Cloud, Minn.
A. Right now there's nothing definite on the calendar, but I will probably co-direct again, "Kristi Yamaguchi Friends and Family" this coming fall. It's questionable whether I'll be on the ice, though.
Q. I am a 50-year-old woman and love watching figure skating. I would love to learn how to skate. Am I too old to learn skating at my age?
— Mary Ostroum, Maple Grove, Minn.
A. You are definitely not too old. Skating is something everyone can do at any age — it's a great family activity. I do it with my daughters, who are 3 and 5 years old. You can pick it up at any age. It's like skiing, tennis, any sport — if you enjoy it, why not take part in it?
Q. When are you going to write your autobiography? We would love to hear the Kristi-tells-all version of Kristi!
— Maria Enderby, Williamsville, N.Y.
A. Ohh funny! I feel like everyone knows everything already, what else is there to tell? I'm not doing an autobiography in near future. I have a lot to experience and learn. I am working on a children's book that's not specifically about me, but it will have some autobiographical tidbits in it.