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My All-Time Favorite Olympics Moment

I’ve never been skiing. I’ve done a little ice skating, and I looooved to sled down hills as a kid in Michigan, but other than that, winter sports aren’t really my bag. (There’s a reason I moved to Florida.)

But I love things that sparkle. I love dance (watching and participating). I love gymnastics. So, like a lot of people, my favorite Olympics moment is from figure skating. Specifically, from the 1992 women’s singles. More specifically, Kristi Yamaguchi’s big win.

I was 12 years old and really into dance — at that point, I believe my Saturdays generally consisted of pee-wee basketball first thing in the morning, then tap, gymnastics/jazz combo and pointe classes to follow. (I guess two-a-days aren’t exactly new to me, huh?) I never remember it feeling like work, though. I loved it so much — I loved perfecting the things I was good at, and I really loved pushing myself to try new and more difficult things.

kristi yamaguchi ice skates

1992, you were a hell of an awkward year for this girl, but at least you gave me Kristi Yamaguchi. Credit: Mr. T in DC, Flickr

And I saw that in Kristi Yamaguchi’s figure skating. She had grace and strength, but she also had a determination that I could almost feel through the television. After watching her short program, I told my mom I was going to need a blank video tape. I was going to record Kristi Yamaguchi’s (sorry, I can’t use just one of her names — it’s like the exact opposite of Cher) long program because I knew — I just knew — we were going to see history being made.

In my mind, it was the greatest skate of all time. In reality, I know it wasn’t — she touched the ice on a triple loop and turned a planned triple salchow (20 sit-ups!) into a double. But some of her stiffest competitors (including Tonya Harding) had even less perfect performances, falling on highly technical tricks like a triple axel.

She still came away with the gold, not because she was perfect, but because she worked hard and played it smart. And I loved that, because I already knew that I was unlikely to be the fastest or the tallest or the strongest in any of the sports I played, and while I loved dancing (have I mentioned that yet?), I mean, I wasn’t going to make a career out of it.

I don’t know if I realized it at the time, but this lesson has been a good one in many, many ways. Here’s hoping that some kid, somewhere, has an equally eye-opening experience watching this year’s Games.

Do you have a strong memory about Winter Olympics of the past? Share away! —Kristen

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