AAP staff report
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (Marh 12, 2011) – Kristi Yamaguchi was at the Mall of America Saturday to sign copies of her new children’s book, “Dream Big, Little Pig!” Yamaguchi has had much written about her, including biographies and sports encyclopedic works on great women in sports; and once contributed to a technical skating book, “Figure Skating for Dummies” published in 1997.
“Dream Big, Little Pig!” is Yamaguchi’s debut picture book for children and young adults. Designed to inspire children of all ages to dream big, the story centers on ‘Poppy’, a young waddling piglet who has big dreams of becoming a figure skater. Poppy was not graceful. In fact, she proved quite clumsy in trying out her skates.
Poppy discovers that it takes a lot of persistence, hard work and belief in her self to be a star of the rink. Through the discouragement and teasing she learns that it helps to have big fans in her corner, like her grandparents and best friend, Emma, who is always there for her.
The book from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky publishers (www.sourcebooks.com) comes to life with the help of award illustrator Tim Bowers, who with his love for animals, including childhood pet pig named Porky, went on to create artwork for several children’s books.
The signing was set up on a stage at the Sears Court, where Asian American Press columnist Bob San was present with his friend Mark Hughes of Shoreview. Hughes, confined to a wheelchair, could not climb the stairs to the stage for a photo and the handlers apologized and said they would ask Yamaguchi to sign the copy.
Someone associated with Yamaguchi noticed Hughes and asked the skating champion if she could come down off the stage to sign Hughes’ book and have a picture taken with him. Without any hesitation, the former honorary chair of the Make-A-Wish Foundation came down off the stage despite the long line of fans to personally greet Hughes with a big smile and took a photo with him after signing his book.
“It was very exciting to meet such an outstanding and exceptionally talented person,” said Hughes. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. She went the extra mile for me. She was first-class all the way.”
Hughes is very active in the Twin Cities disabled community and is the producer and host of the cable TV show Disability Viewpoint.
“I thought it was so nice of her. It made our day,” said Bob San, who accompanied his friend and took the photos.
“Mark said, ‘thanks so much for this. Come visit us again’,” he added. “Kristi responded, ‘I will. My in-laws are here’.”
Yamaguchi is married to Bret Hedican, a North Saint Paul native who went on to play for St. Cloud State University and in the National Hockey League. The two married in 2000, and have two daughters together, Keara, 7, and Emma Yoshiko, 5.
Hedican played professional hockey with the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and Florida Panthers before joining the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001, where he would be part of the NHL Stanley Cup Championship team of 2006. He played a year with the Anaheim Ducks before retiring in 2009 and is now a game commentator.
Kristi Tsuya Yamaguchi was born in 1971 in the Bay Area and took to skating after trying it once at a mall skating rink as a young girl. A Japanese American, she became the first Asian skater to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating when she took top honors in ladies singles at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.
Before the Olympics, Yamaguchi won the gold medal at the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships in Munich, Germany; and the gold medal at the 1992 World Figure Skating Championships near her home in Oakland, Calif.
In 1999, Yamaguchi was inducted into both the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame, and the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2005.
She skated with Stars on Ice for several years, along with several of her own televised skating specials. Just months after announcing her retirement from professional skating, Yamaguchi would gain fame again as the winner of the television show competition, “Dancing With the Stars” in 2008.
Yamaguchi was at the Mall of America in 2006 to accompany the American Lung Association’s, “Faces of Influenza” Portrait Gallery, in an effort to encourage people to get their annual flu vaccinations to protect the health of their families. She also has her own foundation, “Always Dream” that supports various causes and fundraising events.