Contributed By Carole Yamaguchi
When our second child was born, Jim and I thought she was perfect, but the doctor pointed out that her feet were turned inward. "Left uncorrected, it would be a problem," he told us.
We vowed to do anything we could to help our baby. When only two weeks old, I brought her back to the doctor, just as he had directed, and the doctor put her tiny feet into casts, her precious baby toes just barely visible. Because she was growing, I had to take her back to the doctor every two weeks to have each foot recast.
Eventually the casting was finished and it was time for corrective shoes and bars. Jim and I watched with hope and concern as she struggled to walk. Those first, awkward steps made us so proud. By the time she entered preschool, her steps appeared quite normal. Encouraged by her progress, we looked for something else to help strengthen her lower body.
As it turned out, she loved the ice!
When she turned six, we enrolled her in skating lessons and soon she was gliding like a swan. We watched in wonderment as she skimmed the ice. She wasn't the fastest nor the most coordinated skater. She had to work hard at every new movement, but she loved the ice and her dedication paid off. At fifteen, she competed in both pairs-skating and the ladies' singles at the 1988 World Junior Championships in Australia, winning both events! At the senior World Championships in 1991, she won the ladies' singles. Then we found ourselves filled with love and admiration in France, at the 1992 Winter Olympics, as our daughter, Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold medal.
I thought back to the early years of challenge for Kristi - the years of fear for us as her parents, and the same years of frustration for her as a child who simply wanted to walk; the endless doctor visits; the arduous first baby steps with bars and corrective shoes. During those years, we didn't expect gold medals and a stunning professional career ahead of her. We stood in awe of Kristi herself, respecting her strength and dedication, and how far she had come on two tiny feet that had once been bound in heavy casts. In our eyes, Kristi had always walked with the grace of a true champion.