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Olympic speed skater Kristi Yamaguchi admits it’s ‘harder’ to be active, stocks struggle to stay fit at age 50

Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi is candid about her struggle to stay in shape as she ages, four months after celebrating her milestone 50th birthday.

The sports star – who won a gold medal at the 1992 Winter Games – admitted that becoming the big five-oh was a big eye-opener for her, and revealed that it made her “more aware” of her health – and led to the realization that she must take action to stay in shape so she can “be there for her family” and “make the most of the remaining years.”

But according to Kristi, who became the first Asian-American woman to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympics competition, it’s a lot more “harder” to be active now than when she was younger.

She attributes Kung Fu and hip-hop classes to help her stay fit. She also said that she tries to include at least an hour of exercise in her schedule at least three times a week and eat as “healthy as possible.”

Four months after her 50th birthday, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi has spoken candidly about her struggle to stay young and in shape.  She was photographed in 2020

Four months after her 50th birthday, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi has spoken candidly about her struggle to stay young and in shape. She was photographed in 2020

Kristi (pictured left in 1989 and right in 2020) said her 50th birthday made her “more aware” of her health so that she can “make the most of her remaining years”

According to the gold medalist, it's a lot more difficult to be active now than when she was younger.  She was photographed at the 1992 Winter Olympics

According to the gold medalist, it's a lot more difficult to be active now than when she was younger.  She was photographed at the 1992 Winter Olympics

According to the gold medalist, it’s a lot more difficult to be active now than when she was younger. She was photographed at the 1992 Winter Olympics

’50 is the big one… for me it was, “Okay, I’m definitely on the other side now.” It makes you think about other things, you are more aware of your health and can spend the remaining years as optimally as possible,” she said. USA today during a recent interview.

“When you’re younger, you feel like everything is right in front of you. Now you feel, “I really need to prepare so I can be around and be here for the family.”

“I’m excited and happy and I feel like I’m in a good place in my life. But I’m more health conscious.”

The former athlete admitted that while “aging is hard” she feels better when she “stays active.”

‘Aging is tough. I’m not gonna lie. It does get more difficult. I feel better if I stay active, but being active now is definitely a lot different than training like an Olympian,” she said.

‘Everything in moderation. Three balanced meals. I try to eat as healthy as possible five days a week and then on the weekends there can be some splurge.

“If you’re an athlete, the calories you take in don’t matter that much. You just burn the fat. But now it’s like, “I can’t eat 15 chicken wings…that’s not going to happen again.”

‘So it’s about moderation. I like salads, raw vegetables, I have a great smoothie recipe that I will have in the morning a few times a week – kale, almond butter for the protein, yogurt, pineapple, blueberries. That is it.’

She says Kung Fu and hip-hop classes have helped her stay fit now. She also said she tries to eat as “healthy as possible.” She is pictured at the 1992 Winter Olympics

The former athlete admitted that “aging is hard”. She added: “Being active now is definitely a lot different than training as an Olympian.” She is pictured in 1996 (left) and 2020 (right)

Kristi revealed that she started taking Kung Fu classes during the pandemic and has since earned her orange belt.  She is pictured in 1997

Kristi revealed that she started taking Kung Fu classes during the pandemic and has since earned her orange belt.  She is pictured in 1997

Kristi revealed that she started taking Kung Fu classes during the pandemic and has since earned her orange belt. She is pictured in 1997

Kristi revealed that she started taking Kung Fu classes during the pandemic and has since earned her orange belt.

“I’m in the earliest early stages…it was just an amazing activity because I got to a point where I didn’t feel like I was using my brain like I did when I was an athlete — I wasn’t learning, remembering and remember,” she explained.

“So, it feels so great connecting memory and movement and what my body should be doing. Plus, it’s a great exercise.

‘I started it out of self-knowledge and self-defense. I really enjoy the process of learning new things every time.

“Maybe I’ll add some new colors, but I don’t think, ‘I have to go to black belt.’ It’s very humbling to start something new, and if I can get three quarters of the way through I’ll be very happy.”

The skater met her now-husband, Team USA hockey player Bret Hedican, in 1992. They married in 2000 and welcomed two daughters together, named Keara Kiyomi and Emma Yoshiko, in 2003 and 2005.

And she revealed that she wants to give her daughters the freedom to find their own way in life.

She said: ‘It was different for me – finding skates and a path to success when I was so young is not typical.

“My husband and I both wanted our daughters to find their own way on their own time and encourage them to try many things to see what piqued their interest.

“I’ve been trying to find a way to support my girls, just like my parents supported me when I got there. There have been other things going on but family has been my priority as I do my best to set an example by still keeping busy after my career and looking for new challenges.”

Kristi, who became the first Asian-American woman to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympics competition in 1992, recalled feeling lost after the Olympics.  She was photographed in 1990

Kristi, who became the first Asian-American woman to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympics competition in 1992, recalled feeling lost after the Olympics.  She was photographed in 1990

Kristi, who became the first Asian-American woman to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympics competition in 1992, recalled feeling lost after the Olympics. She was photographed in 1990

When she started a children's literacy foundation called Always Dream in 1997, she found a new purpose.  Now she also focuses on raising her daughters, Keara and Emma.  She is in the picture in 2020

When she started a children's literacy foundation called Always Dream in 1997, she found a new purpose.  Now she also focuses on raising her daughters, Keara and Emma.  She is in the picture in 2020

When she started a children’s literacy foundation called Always Dream in 1997, she found a new purpose. Now she also focuses on raising her daughters, Keara and Emma. She is in the picture in 2020

Kristi, who was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2005 and won the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars, recalled feeling lost after the Olympics.

“When you’re 20 years old in the Olympics, you have to find a way to do something different,” she recalled.

“My mom and dad were active members of the community—and still are—and my mom asked me, ‘What are you going to do now to give back?’ It stopped me.’

But when the 50-year-old started a children’s literacy foundation called Always Dream in 1997, she found a new purpose.

She added: ‘I have always loved working with children. And that’s the legacy of “Always Dream”, which gave it more purpose in my life than just being a former athlete.

“We were always focused on supporting the hopes and dreams of underprivileged children. About 10 years ago we narrowed our focus to early literacy.

‘It’s really about providing tools. If you look at some of the stats out there, 60 percent of the [poor] families do not have children’s books at home. That really inspired me.

“As a mother of young girls (who are now seniors and sophomores in high school), I couldn’t imagine not being able to read them a bedtime story at home.

“This is about providing access to quality books and linking them with family involvement support so that families feel empowered with tools to get involved in their child’s learning at home.”

Kristi recently got in touch with a mother and daughter who received a tablet of downloadable children’s stories through Always Dream, and talking to them really put things in perspective for her.

She said the little girl told her, “I’m so glad I have my tablet because wherever we are, Mommy can still read me a bedtime story.”

‘To hear that? Oh wow. It hits you right in the stomach. It makes me proud, and motivates me to do even more, because you see and feel it,” she continued.

“We don’t realize all the different ways we can influence people. That was a small one, but it gives you some insight into the types of families we serve and the impact this has.”

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