Kristi Yamaguchi Dishes on Her New Book and Teaching Kids to Dream Big

Filed under: Books for Kids, Celeb News & Interviews

Krisit Yamaguchi picture

Kristi Yamaguchi's motto: "Always dream." Credit: WireImage

If anyone knows a thing or two about winning, it's Kristi Yamaguchi.

The figure skater took home the Olympic gold medal in 1992, and was named World Champion in 1991 and 1992 and the U.S. National Champion, also in 1992.

But she's not just a champ on the ice. In 2008, Yamaguchi, 39, won the disco ball trophy on season six of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" with partner Mark Ballas.

"I credit my achievement by following my personal motto, 'always dream,' " she tells ParentDish.

Now, Yamaguchi is sharing that motto with kids in her second children's book "Dream Big, Little Pig!"

"I hope it encourages children everywhere to aim high," the mother of Keara, 7, and Emma, 5, says.

Yamaguchi recently spoke with ParentDish about the book, her family and her take on the new season of "DWTS." An edited version of the interview follows.

ParentDish: "Dream Big, Little Pig!" is basically a twist on "always dream."
Kristi Yamaguchi: Yes. Poppy the Pig has a lot of parallels to my life and the lessons she and I both learned along the way.

PD: Why choose a pig as the main character?
KY: Pigs have always been in my life. I was born in the year of the pig and, if you saw my house, you would see there are pig figurines everywhere. I also loved Miss Piggy growing up and the pig seems to be my good luck animal.

PD: What are some of the lessons you learned growing up?
KY: Things don't just happen. You first need to look for what your passion is and know there are going to be obstacles, challenges and a trial and error period. But if you really love it, you need to work it and work towards the feeling of reward.

PD: Is that what inspired you to write this story?
KY: Yes, plus having children of my own is what enabled me to come up with my own story.

PD: This is your second children's book. ("Always Dream" was published in 1998). What made you want to become a children's author?
KY: My children motivate me and were a big inspiration in helping my characters come to life.

PD: Your books are targeted at different age groups, but teach the same lesson. Why do kids need to know to succeed?
KY: Set goals in your life. If you have a goal and you work your way towards it by taking small steps to get closer, it can happen and can come true. If you put in the effort and the time, anything is possible.

PD: Always Dream is also the name of your charity.
KY: Yes, about 15 years ago I created an organization that would help children. Most recently, we built a playground in northern California that will help children of all abilities play side by side. Also, a portion of the proceeds from "Dream Big, Little Pig!" will go to a literacy program we started at my foundation.

PD: Did your kids play a role in helping you put together the new book?
KY: My older one helped me pick the name Poppy, the main character of the story. It also centers around skating, which is something we all do together as a family.

PD: Your husband, Bret Hedican (they've been married since July 2000), is a retired hockey player. Is it safe to assume ice skating is a favorite pastime in your household?
KY: Yes (laughs). We are not pushing them to be competitive, but we are teaching them about skating and how to be confident on the ice.

PD: What do you and Bret teach your own children about dreaming big?
KY: We want to encourage them to look at a big picture and have something that is special for them to do. We encourage them to put in 100 percent and just to try your best. We want them to be happy with the small accomplishments they achieve, and winning does not have to be the end goal.

PD: Since kids can't always take home the gold, what do you teach them about losing?
KY: At this age we say things like, "Wow! You tried so hard and got much better than last time. We are so proud of you." We try to find the positive and tell them it is OK the other team won. You played well and that's what counts.

PD: You won the top spot on "Dancing with the Stars." Are you still moving and grooving at home?
KY: No. I danced a little bit with Mark is a couple of shows last summer. It's harder now to keep it up because so much time has passed, but I do love it and it was a lot of fun.

PD: The new cast for the show was recently revealed. What's your take on Kirstie Alley, Kendra Wilkinson and Sugar Ray Leonard stepping onto the ballroom floor?
KY: It's always intriguing to see the personalities they cast for the show. It will be fun to see these people take on a whole new challenge and watch how they handle it.

PD: You, Emmitt Smith and Apolo Anton Ohno all won on the show. Do you think athletes have an advantage because of how disciplined you have to be to train for your sports?
KY: Yes. Having gone through intense and high pressure situations as an athlete, we can relate to the level of intensity you go through by being on this show. When you apply that knowledge, yes, it can help. Athletes are used to taking instruction and criticism and knowing how to handle it.

PD: Disney star Chelsea Kane Staub is paired up with your former partner, Mark Ballas.
KY: My advice: Pace yourself and know how much you can handle per day. Mentally and emotionally it is a lot tougher than the physical aspect of it. I can tell you, Chelsea is in the best hands with Mark and Mark makes it fun. He is so inspiring to work with and he had me in awe!

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.