HONOLULU—My figure-skating fangirl heart is bursting with joy right now! I’ve just come home after a night out with just a few of the skating world’s most talented figure skaters, singing karaoke and busting up the dance floor.
Just this past weekend, I got to perform as part of Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi’s show, “Golden Moment,” at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena. The proceeds from the Saturday and Sunday shows will go to initiatives encouraging early childhood literacy in the state of Hawaii. Kristi’s Always Dream Foundation supports this wonderful cause, as well, in California and Arizona.
All the skaters are champions, whether at the Olympics, US Nationals or World Championships. Besides Kristi, on the powerhouse lineup were Ekaterina Gordeeva, Yuka Sato, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Shizuka Arakawa, Daisuke Takahashi, Jeremy Abbott and Ryan Bradley. Kristi’s daughter Emma also made a sweet special appearance, skating along with her mother to “Reflection.”
Hosting the event was another Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano, and Carrie Ann Inaba (Saturday) and Billy V (Sunday).
When Kristi extended the invitation to sing on the show, my brain must’ve done multiple mini-explosions of joy. I remember watching her on TV, both at the Olympics and US Nationals, and turning into a huge fan.
This young woman was a trailblazer for the Asian-American community, and her triumph at the Olympics in 1992 gained her the admiration of millions of fans all over the world. She was elegant, strong and fast on the ice. And when I finally met her in San Francisco last spring, she was just classy, beautiful and very sweet.
In my head, this would be an interesting collaboration. When I attended my first rehearsal, I realized I had the best seat in the house, and I would be watching these incredible athletes just a few feet in front of me. While singing. Wooooot!
On the car ride for a Friday-morning TV appearance, Kristi told me who would be skating to which songs (speaking of which, thank you, Ria Villena-Osorio for creating the tracks to which we’d be performing).
Aside from her and Emma doing “Reflection,” Olympic gold medalist Shizuka Arakawa (the first Japanese woman to win) would skate to “Let It Go,” Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White would perform “Somewhere” from “West Side Story,” Olympic bronze medalist and world champ Daisuke Takahashi (the first Asian to win a medal in men’s singles figure skating at the Olympics) would skate “The Story of My Life” by One Direction, and the big finale would be Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” Lastly, she said that Ekaterina “Katia” Gordeeva would skate to “I Dreamed a Dream.”
If you were a fan of Olympic figure skating in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then you would know of the Russian skaters’ dominance in pairs skating. My favorite of these pairs was Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov. Theirs was a fairy-tale romance, starting with their skating partnership from when she was 11 and he was 15, and over many years blossomed into a beautiful love affair. They won Olympic gold in 1988, then in 1994. They made their home in the United States and toured with “Stars on Ice,” and together had a little girl named Daria.
In 1995, during practice for a new “Stars on Ice” tour in Lake Placid, New York, Sergei suffered a sudden heart attack and passed away. He was only 28 years old, leaving Katia a widow at 24 years old with a 3-year-old child. She wrote a book about their professional and personal partnership, titled “My Sergei.” I remember buying the book, and weeping as I read it.
Hence, when I knew that I would be singing “I Dreamed a Dream” while Katia would be skating, knowing full well the story of her life would not be an easy task.
For each of the skating numbers, I would try to keep an eye on each performer to try and match my own performance to their skating. If someone was spinning while I was sustaining a note, I’d try to make sure I cut off right when they stopped. I would allow for their skating to inform my singing, which made for wonderful collaborations.
After the second show on Sunday, after I had dinner with my family (it was Rob’s cousin and former Broadway diva dancer Christine Yasunaga’s birthday), we headed to a private reception where everyone could just hang out and dance, followed by late-night karaoke, where a bunch of us took the microphone and sang (Brian did Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England”; Kristi’s sister Lori belted out “Take Me or Leave Me” from “Rent”; Kristi’s husband, Stanley Cup-holder Bret Hedican, sang a song Kristi picked out; and Jeremy and I sang “A Whole New World”). It was such a wonderful end to a great stay in Honolulu.
To Kristi and everyone involved with “Golden Moment,” thank you from the bottom of my heart for inviting me to be a part of this very special show.
I remain in awe not only of your achievements as an athlete and a trailblazer for the Asian-American community in the United States, but of your big heart as you champion childhood literacy, a cause that’s important in every person’s eventual success in life.
It’s been such a privilege to meet and work with you and your friends and colleagues—and for allowing me to fangirl a bit.
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