A spin with Kristi

  • Article by: NEAL JUSTIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 12, 2008 - 11:58 AM

"Dancing With the Stars" favorite Kristi Yamaguchi and her Minnesota-raised husband discover that being on a hit show means learning some new moves off the ballroom floor.

Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas

Photo: Kelsey Mcneal, ABC

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Part-time Minnesotan Kristi Yamaguchi, the odds-on favorite to skate away with the "Dancing With the Stars" title, may be tripping the light fantastic with her professional partner, Mark Ballas, but don't think for a moment that her other partner is resting on his feet.

Sure, hubby Bret Hedican, a professional hockey player, would rather be vying for the Stanley Cup with his Carolina Hurricanes, but playing spectator rather than superstar has its rewards, most notably the ability to spend more time with their kids, Emma, 2, and Keara, 4.

To get a feel for just how their roles have reversed in recent months, consider how they handled a joint phone interview last week, just hours before Yamaguchi would learn she had glided into the final four. She was in the makeup chair, getting her hair done for dress rehearsal; he was at home with the kids.

The couple, who met in 1992, the year Yamaguchi took home a gold medal in figure skating, and married in 2000, talked about why they spent their summers in Minnesota, what local dessert gets Yamaguchi's toes a-tapping, and the agony of "da feet."

Q We're just a few hours from the results show. Between the two of you, who is more nervous?

Kristi: It's probably me. Bret's always more confident.

Bret: I'm just proud of her. It takes a lot of nerve to deal with the judges' responses, but I see how her Olympic champion spirit carries over on the air.

Q For the past few years, Kristi has been in the stands cheering you on. What's it like to have the roles reversed?

Bret: It's great that I'm now able to do this for Kristi and she's able to do something for herself and get her name back in the spotlight.

Kristi: The sports world is great, but this is a whole different scene. It's my first experience with the paparazzi. Of course, it's only temporary.

Q Bret, what's your future in professional hockey?

Bret: Right now my contract with Carolina is up. I'm leaving my doors open. I'm not locked in on going back and I'm not retiring. I'm just enjoying this with Kristi. I am working on a foundation called Whatever It Takes. One of my best friends died of brain cancer in March and I want to put together a benefit concert. I'm planning on something in August at the Myth nightclub. Kristi and Mark have promised to dance.

Q What do the kids think about Mommy dancing on national television?

Bret: They love the songs. Whatever Kristi dances to, they put it on their iPods and dance to it. I took both girls down to the studio the other morning and I interviewed them in the green room like they were Kristi and Mark.

Q Is it ever uncomfortable for the kids or for you, Bret, to see Kristi perform such sexy numbers with, you know, another guy?

Bret: I don't look at it like that. I can watch and lock into the music and the performance. That outweighs anything else.

Kristi: The kids are used to seeing me perform. When Keara was 4 months old, she went on tour with me to 10 cities. They're used to seeing Mom and Dad on ice.

Q You had such a successful career as an ice skater. Don't you have an unfair advantage? Isn't it cheating?

Kristi: I think everyone who's on the show brings a different element of talent. I work as hard as anyone else.

Q You two spend your summers in a lake house near Brainerd. Why is that important to you?

Kristi: Bret's family is out there. It definitely grounds us to be with them and his friends, a lot of whom he's known since he was in second grade. It's very quiet. I never wear a watch when we're there. It's like a sanctuary.

Bret: We don't feel we need to go anywhere or even go out for dinner when we're there. It feels good to be in the house or out in the yard or on the boat. I think it'll mean even more to the girls as they get older.

Q I heard that Kristi got a gift from Minnesota recently.

Kristi: There's a restaurant called Marx in Stillwater that Bret and I try to go to whenever we're in town. A friend of ours sent me a care package from there, my favorite dessert. Warm banana cake with caramel stuff on it and fresh whipped cream. It's to die for. It came with instructions on how to heat it up. It was the best.

Q Any major injuries yet?

Kristi: I rolled my ankle in week four and I had it taped for about a week. That scared me, because I've had problems with that ankle before. Right now my feet are pretty swollen. It's like when I was pregnant.

Q Guess that means one thing: foot massages.

Bret: Absolutely. She's reciprocated in her days and helped me get out of bed. We're in a relationship where we know how to take care of each other.

njustin@startribune.com • 612-673-7431

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