Kristi Yamaguchi was the face of the 1992 Olympics, wowing the
world with her beauty and athleticism on ice and bringing home a
gold medal. Nearly 20 years later, she's still an icon,
whether for winning ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" in 2008 or
landing on the New York Times' Best Seller List for her new
children's book "Dream Big, Little Pig!"
You can catch
Kristi at Anderson's Books in Naperville March
But her proudest role to date is mom to Keara, 7, and Emma, 5,
with husband and former ice hockey player Bret Hedican.
On a stop in Chicago to promote her book at the Skating in the
Sky rink in the John Hancock Observatory, Kristi sat down to talk
to ChicagoParent about being a mom, trying new things and the
importance of early literacy.
Why did you decide to write this
I've always kind of wanted to do a children's book; it's always
been at the back of my mind. Having my own [kids] and kind of
seeing how important reading is to them and how they love their
books … I thought, now is the time to do a book for them. They
inspired me. I [wanted] a positive message in the book, something
that can resonate with kids. I was grasping from my own experiences
and putting all the ideas together. It's not really about me, but I
think it's about some of the life lessons that I learned.
What do you want kids to get from this
I would say keep dreaming. Dream big. It's about persistence and
continuing to find what your passion is in life, and then putting
your all into it. It's pretty simple.
You've tried many new things in your life -
Obviously I'm not skating so much anymore, and I'm just always
looking for the next challenge. It's easy to kind of sit back, and
I did for the first few years that my girls were born. I just
wanted to be a mom and concentrate on that. But now they're in
school, and I think there's always something fun to look forward to
and to challenge yourself with. I believe in that and keeping
motivated and inspired.
How has becoming a mom changed how you look at
When you have kids, you just all the sudden realize how precious
life is and you become a little more cautious of the things you do.
I'll still go on rollercoasters and stuff, but I'm not going to
parachute or do some more daring things I thought would be fun when
I was younger.
I was never really great with kids before I was a mom. I loved
kids, but it's not like I could relate to them. I think it's
shocking how all the sudden you're a mom and that maternal instinct
- for me, anyway - just kicks in. You feel like you're the only one
who knows what's best for your own child. And you completely
embrace the whole, "I'd do anything for my children and for them to
How much skating do you do now?
My girls are learning how to skate. So every now and then, my
husband and I will get on the ice and just kind of skate around
with them. It's more of a fun thing. I think they could probably
care less, but my husband and I are like, "No they have to learn
how to skate, at least for fun." It's kind of a skating family. But
yeah, I haven't really skated skated in a long time. I still get
asked to do shows and stuff… It's hard to dedicate the time and
find a consistent schedule where I can actually train.
Do your daughters know that you and your husband are
The little one's just kind of starting to grasp, like "Why do
people know you? What's 'famous,' Mom? Are you famous?" So it's
just kind of saying, "Well, I competed at the Olympics and a lot of
people watched the Olympics, so that's why they know me." So she's
kind of trying to figure it out a little bit.
Do you find that little ones tend to know who you
I think ones that have watched Dancing with the Stars know. I've
gone to many schools, and it's funny because the principal or
librarian has usually showed them YouTube. It's like teenagers,
too, will come up, and I'm like "You were not even born yet when I
Tell us about your Always Dream
We're in our 15th year now of continual giving. It's
something I would love to be able to continue to build and grow.
Hopefully it's still there when I'm not around, and something my
children can take pride in and be a part of as well.
For the last 15 years, it was focused on children and
organizations that have a positive effect on their lives. We've
always supported some of the smaller groups under the radar that
don't get a lot of funding. Now we're kind of switching gears a
little bit and focusing on education. We're turning toward early
literacy. A portion of the proceeds from the book will go toward
our literacy initiative, wanting to reach those underserved
communities, children that don't have access to a library or books
Was reading something that was important to you as a
I definitely remember having books around and having my favorite
books. [Literacy is] the foundation for success, not only in
school, but in life. Some of the statistics out there are pretty
staggering; by the 3rd grade, if you're not reading at grade level,
that's going to say a lot about the rest of your school career.
That's why we're targeting the younger grades, just to nip it in
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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