Yamaguchi Honored in Thursday Night's U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Ceremony

by Troy Schwindt
Kristi Yamaguchi with her dress and medal from the 1992 Olympic Winter Games.
Photo by Paul Harvath

(12/8/05) - Kristi Yamaguchi wasn't there Thursday night in Chicago when she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. A brand new baby daughter and her 2-year-old sister are demanding Yamaguchi's attention these days.

“I'll be there in spirit,” said the 1992 Olympic champion, whose father, Jim, represented her during the induction ceremony at Harris Theatre.

Yamaguchi is a member of the 2006 class that features members of the 1984 U.S. men's gymnastics team, track and field sprinters Evelyn Ashford and the late Bobby Hayes, swimmer Rowdy Gaines, gymnast Shannon Miller, late hockey coach Herb Brooks, paralympian Diana Golden-Brosnihan, late speed skater Jack Shea and special contributor Dick Ebersol.

A nationally-televised special will air early in 2006 to enable sports fans across the United States to relive the moments that catapulted the Class of 2006 inductees to U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame status. Broadcast details will be announced at a later date.

“It's such a huge honor, and seeing the other group of nominees who are being inducted, I feel humbled to be joining such an incredible list of athletes and Olympic ambassadors,” Yamaguchi said from her home in Raleigh, N.C.

“I have so many great memories of the Olympics and feel fortunate to have had that experience, so this makes it feel that much more special.”

Yamaguchi, who turned 34 yesterday, said her most vivid memories of the 1992 Olympic experience in Albertville, France, are her on-ice performances, but she admits standing on the podium was extra special, too.

“I remember extreme emotions, feeling really proud,” said Yamaguchi, who is also a two-time World champion (1991-'92) and a World Junior pairs champion with partner Rudy Galindo (1988).

“At the same time, I was pinching myself, saying OK, is this really the Olympics? Is this really happening? How can I be so lucky to be standing here at the top of the podium? I think I was calmer than I expected. I think I was just trying to savor every moment.”

Since her competitive days, Yamaguchi has remained in the skating picture and has performed professionally. She recently helped host a TV skating special with Scott Hamilton.

Yamaguchi has also been busy with her decade-old “Always Dream Foundation,” which helps different children's organizations.

Today, the majority of Yamaguchi's time is spent keeping up with her daughters, Emma, born Nov. 18, and toddler Keara. She also tries to watch her husband, Bret Hedican, play hockey as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame was established in 1979 to celebrate the achievements of America's premier athletes in the modern Olympic Games. The first U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame class was inducted in 1983 during ceremonies in Chicago. That charter class, which included Olympic greats Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe and Muhammad Ali, remains the largest group (20 individuals and one team) ever inducted. In 2004, after a 12-year hiatus, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame was revived.

To date, 182 athletes (including six U.S. teams) and special contributors to the U.S. Olympic movement have been enshrined, including figure skating greats Tenley Albright (1988), Dick Button (1983), Peggy Fleming (1983), Dorothy Hamill (1991) and Scott Hamilton (1990).

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