Kristi Yamaguchi: 'Dancing with the Stars' victory "unbelievably exciting"
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/21/2008
Kristi Yamaguchi couldn't compare her recently acquired Dancing with the Stars sixth-season mirror ball trophy to her gold medal as an Olympic figure skater, but she said it still holds a special place in her heart.
"At this point in my life, this is unbelievably exciting," said Yamaguchi during a Tuesday night Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance that followed her Dancing with the Starssixth-season victory with professional partner Mark Ballas.
"Obviously the Olympics was what it was -- the highlight of my life. But being able to come onto a show like Dancing with the Stars and experience something scary and new and to make so many wonderful friends that I know I'll have for life, I'll cherish every moment and all the memories I have from this experience."
Yamaguchi and Ballas took home the Dancing with the Stars sixth-season title after 10 weeks of competition, defeating NFL star Jason Taylor and his professional partner Edyta Slwiniska, who finished second, and telenovela actor Cristian de la Fuente and his professional partner Cheryl Burke.
The couple had been atop the judges leaderboard eight of the 10 weeks during the competition and never found themselves in the bottom two.
"We took it week by week," said Yamaguchi when asked by Kimmel if she expected to win. "At some point Jason was at the top of the leaderboard then Cristian was at the top of the leaderboard. But we wanted to just go out there, have fun, do the best we can and we knew it was up to the fans. You can't worry about it too much."
Yamaguchi became the first female celebrity to win the Dancing with the Stars title since Kelly Monaco and professional partner Alec Mazo did so during the show's initial Summer 2005 season. Yamaguchi said she and Ballas will have joint custody of the coveted mirror ball trophy.
"We kind of decided we'll do six months at my house, six months at Mark's house," said Yamaguchi. "We're partners. We're a team. We can share."
The victory represents Ballas' first mirror ball trophy. Last fall -- his first season on the show -- Ballas was unexpectedly eliminated from the competition with celebrity partner Sabrina Bryan, who had been considered to be one of the season's frontrunners.
"I was so excited," Ballas told Kimmel about learning he was paired with Yamaguchi. "I'm a big Olympics fan and I'd seen her skate. Last year I had the honor of going to one of her ice shows. It's just been an honor from start to finish. She also has an amazing family, and spending time with them has just been a blast."
While Dancing with the Stars sixth season lacked much of the drama of the show's fifth installment last fall, it did contain an injury scare when de la Fuente ruptured a tendon in his left arm several weeks ago.
"We saw it happen and the look on his face was instantly pain and panic," said Yamaguchi when Kimmel jokingly asked if de la Fuente was "faking" it. "You could see it. He's definitely going into surgery Friday."
Yamaguchi said the severity of de la Fuente's injury hit home with all of the show's participants and reminded them of the daunting task they all undertook in competing.
"It was very scary when Cristian injured his arm," she said. "I think we all felt like, 'Oh, it could be us. It could be anyone at any point.' This dancing is very physical and we were pushing our bodies to the limit, we were practicing six to 10 hours a day. So it's exhausting. I definitely felt for him and I was hoping he could come back to the competition."