Olympic skater Yamaguchi tells Lakewood students to ‘dream big’

From AAPSNews Service

Olympic skater Kristi Yamaguchi visited Lakewood Elementary School recently for an early elementary assembly, presenting her children’s book “Dream Big, Little Pig!” published this year by Sourcebooks.

Kristi Yamaguchi at Lakewood
Kristi Yamaguchi greets students at Lakewood Elementary after a reading of her new children's book, "Dream Big, Little Pig!"

Lakewood Elementary partners with Nicola Rooney, owner of Nicola’s Books, throughout the school year and Yamaguchi’s visit was made possible through the partnership. The gold medalist’s visit to the Ann Arbor school was part of her spring book tour.

It took Yamaguchi about one year to write the book, she told students. The main character of the book is Poppy the Pig, who realizes she can succeed at anything if she believes in herself.

California native Yamaguchi, now age 39, won the 1991 World Championship in singles skating, won her first U.S. title in 1992 and went on to win a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics in France. Later that year, she defended her World Championship title. She toured professionally after 1992.

Yamaguchi fielded numerous questions about her skating, but told students her more recent role as a mom has curtailed much of that. “I’m practicing being mom now, so there’s not a lot of time to skate,” she said. Yamaguchi has two daughters, aged 5 and 7, and has been married to retired professional hockey player and TV analyst Brad Hedican since 2002.

She told Lakewood students that her skating career was not easy, but that it helped her to build character.

“Just like Poppy It was pretty much magic. The first time I tried it I knew I loved it and I wanted to come back over and over again,” she told students. “I kept asking my parents to take me back to the rink. A lot of people try different things … eventually I found skating.”

Seventh grade was when she decided she wanted to skate and began practicing several hours each day.

Students asked if the new book is autobiographical. “I get that a lot,” she said. “A lot of the lessons and some things I learned are definitely in the book. There a little bit that Poppy goes through that I definitely went through as well.”

A portion of proceeds from her new book will go to the Always Dream Foundation, Yamaguchi’s nonprofit that supports early childhood literacy. Yamaguchi has also written “Figure Skating for Dummies” and “Always Dream, Pure Gold.”

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