(Olympic Gold Medalist/Figure Skater)
Athlete, artist, mother, wife, philanthropist – Kristi Yamaguchi’s accomplishments prove that with hard work and dedication, dreams can come true. Born in Hayward, California in 1971, Kristi started ice-skating at the age of six. By the early 1990s, she had earned victories at the most highly regarded domestic and international competitions, including the 1992 Winter Olympics and World Championships in 1991 and 1992. Kristi then embarked on a successful professional career, touring with Stars on Ice and winning numerous competitions. In 1996, she founded the Always Dream Foundation in support of children’s organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has authored two books, “Figure Skating for Dummies” and “Kristi Yamaguchi, Always Dream,” and was inducted to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1998 and to the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame the following year. Kristi served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and received the prestigious Thurman Munson Award in 2008 for excellence in competition and philanthropy. Recently, Kristi returned to competitive performance with a victory in the sixth season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
Yamaguchi’s heritage can be traced back to the Wakayama and Saga prefectures in Japan. Kristi’s paternal grandfather, Tatsuichi Yamaguchi, immigrated to Hawaii in 1899, making his way to the United States a few years later. Over a span of five decades, he persevered time and time again, living through the changing restrictions on immigrants from Japan. He finally was able to naturalize just four years before his death. During World War II, most Japanese-Americans served in the segregated, all Japanese-American, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. But Kristi’s maternal grandfather, George Akira Doi, served in the 100th Infantry Division, an otherwise all-white unit. He saw combat in Europe and was decorated as “unquestionably the company’s best soldier,” even as his wife and family spent the war years incarcerated in concentration camps.