For Yamaguchi, ice drops to 2nd place

Children now at center of her routine

Figure skating


For the first time in five years, Kristi Yamaguchi didn't skate in her own TV special.

And with good reason.

She was eight months pregnant with her second daughter.

So this past October, Yamaguchi traded in her skating bag for a diaper bag when the show was produced and taped in Albany, N.Y. Good friend and former Olympic teammate Nancy Kerrigan - herself a mother now - filled in for Yamaguchi. Appropriately, the show, which Yamaguchi co-hosts with Scott Hamilton, is dedicated to children, hence the title, "Friends and Family."

Yamaguchi also missed out on her induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in Chicago on Dec. 8. Her father took her place at the awards dinner, accepting the honor on her behalf, while Yamaguchi was tending to her children at home in Raleigh, N.C., after her daughter, Emma, was born Nov. 17.

A lot has changed for Yamaguchi - and for many of her skating contemporaries - since she captured the Olympic gold medal in Albertville, France, in 1992. They've become, well, skating parents.

"At the other shows, we used to have all different kinds of conversations," Yamaguchi said in a telephone interview earlier this month. "This time, we were all talking about baby food and sleeping patterns."

Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, has a son, Aidan, who is just a couple of weeks older than Yamaguchi's oldest daughter.

Ekaterina Gordeeva, who won two gold medals with her late husband Sergei Grinkov, performs in the show with 13-year-old daughter Daria.

Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, who won a world silver medal, have a son, Jack, who just turned 1 this year, in the show, as well.

There are many other children of skating and musical celebrities featured, as well.

Nursery room

"I think it's fitting," Yamaguchi said. "We've all been such good friends and now we're all in the middle of parenthood together."

Typically, the scenes backstage at an ice show are filled with sequins and makeup. At this show, set to air on NBC (WBAL/Channel 11) today at 4 p.m., there was one room set up as a nursery.

Virtually every skater had a parent or grandparent in tow, and skaters took turns babysitting the children of others when the skaters went out to perform.

"It was probably a little more hectic than a regular show," Yamaguchi said. "But it was fun to have the kids meet each other and play with each other.

"There were strollers and diaper bags everywhere. We tried to make it as comfortable as an arena can be."

Until she became a mother, Yamaguchi's life was centered on skating. After her competitive career, she continued skating, touring with "Stars on Ice" and performing in televised skating shows. And she was involved behind the scenes as a goodwill ambassador at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, where she also skated in the opening and closing ceremonies.

The Olympics remain a big part of her life, and she was excited to be honored by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"That recognition was more than I ever expected," Yamaguchi said. "It really was the icing on the cake for me."

No retirement yet

Yamaguchi said she probably won't return to skating on a full-time basis, but she's not quite ready to retire.

"It's more of a matter of how much I'll really be able to do," she said.

These days, her life is far more centered on her family than the ice - even though she is married to a fellow skater, defenseman Bret Hedican of the National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes.

Yamaguchi met Hedican briefly during the 1992 Olympics - she realized years later that he is in one of her Olympic scrapbook photos - but they didn't start dating until three years later when, by chance, they both attended the opening of an ice arena in Vancouver.

With Hedican traveling so much and Yamaguchi still being sought for speaking engagements and endorsement deals, parenthood has had its challenges.

"It's a lot of work," she said. "But things are going pretty well - as well as can be expected with a baby who is up every couple of hours. But the second time around, I guess I'm a little more calm. I'm not as anxious. I just know I've got to get through the first few months."

When she was competing and preparing for the Winter Olympics, everything revolved around triple jumps and pleasing judges. Now she's learned how to balance her life and focus more on others.

"Anyone who becomes a parent for the first time realizes how much it changes your perspective on everything," Yamaguchi said. "Sometimes I think, `How could I have been so involved with myself?' Skating certainly takes a backseat to being a mom now, and I definitely am starting to identify more and understand my parents and why they were so protective of me.

"You just really, really want to do your best for your children."

In their footsteps?

All of which brings up the obvious question: Will Yamaguchi's children follow in her figure skates? Maybe even pairs skating with one of the other offspring of skaters?

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