SOCHI, Russia -- Some athletes are here in Sochi seeking the Olympic dream. Kristi Yamaguchi is living it.
Even though the figure skating champion achieved her own gold-medal moment 22 years ago inAlbertville, France, Yamaguchi has been having the time of her life in Sochi, mingling with Team USA athletes at venues in the mountains or at the USA House and, of course, at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
|Kristi Yamaguchi has interviewed women's halfpipe snowboarding gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington, as well as...
|...men's slopestyle skiing gold medalist Joss Christensen, and...|
|...two-time Olympic medalist ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.|
Yamaguchi is here working with the United States Olympic Committee as a digital media ambassador, interviewing athletes for videos on the TeamUSA.org site. She is also contributing to the USOC’s social media coverage during the Games by taking over the @USOlympic Twitter account during key moments, most notably during figure skating events. The USOC recently showed what life in Sochi is like through a ‘#dayinthelife’ of Yamaguchi on Instagram and Facebook.
“I feel honored that I get a chance to sit down and catch up with the athletes,” Yamaguchi said. “I catch them at the best time because they come to the USA House after they win their medals and they’re totally pumped up. It’s been really fun to see.”
Yamaguchi, an avid hockey fan who is married to Stanley Cup winner Bret Hedican, even got a coveted ticket to Team USA’s match-up against Russia, in which the Americans beat the Russians, 3-2, in an overtime shootout. She dubbed the game the “T.J. Oshie show,” since the St. Louis Blues center has now become a hero of these Winter Games for his shootout skills.
“The USA-Russia game was a thrill!” said Yamaguchi, whose husband is also in Sochi and was at the game broadcasting for Westwood One radio. “Intense from the start, it was intimidating to cheer for U.S. with the arena full of home team fans.
“The shootout ending was a sight,” Yamaguchi added. “With international rules I've never seen one like it! Crazy exciting with him getting the winning shootout goal — so lucky to have witnessed it live! Go team USA!”
The day before that she was in the USA House, a spot for athletes, families, officials and sponsors to relax during the Winter Games, when Russian president Vladimir Putin stopped by.
It’s been a tough job for Yamaguchi, but someone’s got to do it, right?
Of course, one of the spots where Yamaguchi has been most is the Iceberg Skating Palace. We caught up with her to get her thoughts on the skating competition here in Sochi.
TeamUSA.org: What did you think of the team event in figure skating and would you have liked to have had that as part of the Olympic program when you were competing?
Yamaguchi: Are you kidding? Absolutely I would have loved to compete in the team event. I think it’s so wonderful that skating has another medal opportunity; it’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t include all the skaters. I really got the impression that the Team USA skaters really supported each other and really care about each other here in Sochi.
TeamUSA.org: You could always make a comeback. Perhaps you could just skate in the short program in the team event in 2018.
Yamaguchi: (with a laugh) Yeah, I don’t think so.
TeamUSA.org: Switching gears to the men’s event, Jeremy Abbott showed a lot of resilience. He fell on his opening quad and fell head first into the boards in the short program but got back up and skated brilliantly to the finish. What did you make of his performance?
Yamaguchi: First of all, it shows you the amount of force and power that goes into a quad. It was good to see him finish the program the way he did.
TeamUSA.org: Did you ever have a hard fall along those lines and then have to finish your routine?
Yamaguchi: When you have a coach like Christy Ness, you finish it. I always had to finish my program.
TeamUSA.org: Did it ever happen in competition?
Yamaguchi: No but once I was in a Stars on Ice show and on my first jump, a triple Lutz, I fell and bounced out of the rink because there were no boards. I bounced and boom. But I had to finish the routine so I did.
TeamUSA.org: Jason Brown has added some excitement to the American men’s field. What do you think about his emergence on the scene?
Yamaguchi: Jason has an incredible knack for bringing people to their feet. His components and overall levels will definitely be up there. It will be fun the next four years to watch him.
TeamUSA.org: You are known for your singles skating but also were a pairs skating champion. What were your thoughts on the pairs competition?
Yamaguchi: I love pairs. I still love watching the connection between the skaters on the ice. I actually really love the second Russian pair (Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov), which finished second here. The top Russian team (Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov) were lights out and to do that under the pressure they were under.
TeamUSA.org: The women’s event should be interesting for Team USA. What are your predictions?
Yamaguchi: Watching Gracie transform under the influence of Frank Carroll has been fun. She has the right people working with her, with her music, with her programs, and she has a package that you want to see in women’s skating. Gracie has the jumps and the technique and the flow and this year, she’s really worked on the components and artistry.
I think Polina Edmunds can factor in, too. People haven’t heard about her much but she has an equal chance to get on the podium as anyone.
And then there’s Ashley (Wagner) and she wanted to come in and make a statement and she did with the team event. It will all come down to who wants it most. I really think U.S. skating is in good hands right now.
TeamUSA.org: And tonight you get a chance to see ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White in the short dance. They have a very good shot at winning the first Olympic gold medal for the United States in ice dancing.
Yamaguchi: It will of course be incredible to watch Meryl and Charlie go for the gold. They have been getting better and better at every event which seems impossible.
(A gold medal) would cement their place U.S. figure skating history, but whether or not they win, they have already lead a new era of ice dance in technical difficulty, style, just really refreshing the discipline. With the popularity of the dance shows on TV, Meryl and Charlie show are all that and more. So excited to watch them compete here and wishing them lots of luck.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance writer and editor for TeamUSA.org. A former sports reporter for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, she is covering her fifth Olympic Games in Sochi. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.