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Dancing with Kristi


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Courtesy of Adam Larkey/ABC

Olympic gold medal figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi refuses to rest on her laurels. For her next challenge, the part-time Alamo resident will waltz and tango in front of millions of TV viewers as one of 12 celebrity contestants on the sixth season of Dancing With the Stars. If she and her professional dance partner, Mark Ballas, haven’t already been voted off by the time you read this, she may be competing against Priscilla Presley, Monica Seles, and Marlee Matlin to win the mirror-ball trophy. Diablo reached Yamaguchi in Los Angeles just after a class with Ballas in basic fox-trot.

Why are you doing Dancing With the Stars?
I love the show. My two daughters [ages two and four] love to sit and watch. The biggest reason, though, is that I wanted to learn ballroom dancing. I never set aside the time to take lessons, and this is an amazing opportunity to learn how to dance from the best professionals.

Previous contestants Lisa Rinna and Jerry Rice said your experience as a figure skater “dancing on ice” makes you tough to beat. Do you agree?
I’m finding that ballroom dancing is a whole lot different from skating. At this point, I’m taking one dance at a time. Of course, I want to stay in it as long as possible.

Have you been skating lately?
I wasn’t planning to skate at all this year, but I had the opportunity to do the Music of Seal on Ice show [in December]. It benefited autism research.

What about your own foundation, Always Dream?
We’re keeping busy. Actually, we’re in the final architectural design stages to build a playground in Fremont that will be designed for children of all physical abilities.

With your husband, hockey player Bret Hedican, playing for the Carolina Hurricanes, do you and your family spend much time in the East Bay?
We’re currently based in Raleigh. We hope to end up back in Alamo eventually. Once Dancing With the Stars starts, I’ll be in L.A., so I’ll be going up to Alamo more.

What do you think of the wide-ranging line-up of contestants on Dancing With the Stars?
I think the show gets an eclectic group of people. There’s something for
everyone to watch, different age levels, experiences. I think it’s a great
mix of people. The last few seasons they’ve brought in some really top
athletes—[football legend] Jerry Rice and [Olympic speed-skating champion] Apollo Anton Ohno. It’s exciting to see athletes do something outside the box.

Who will be your biggest competitors?
I think the two will be [R&B star] Mario and Marisa Jaret Winokur [a Tony
Award–winning Broadway star]. They both have amazing personalities and dance experience. They’re the ones to watch.

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