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Kristi Yamaguchi honored by Barbie as part of Inspiring Women series

The Kristi Yamaguchi Barbie doll in its box.
Kristi Yamaguchi is honored by Barbie as part of the Inspiring Women series. Credit: Mattel

This Barbie is a winner.

Kristi Yamaguchi inspired kids around the world when she won the gold medal in women's singles figure skating at the 1992 Olympics. She was the first Asian-American figure skater to win an Olympic gold medal.

That moment is now immortalized by Barbie, who transformed Yamaguchi into a Barbie doll as part of the Inspiring Women series ahead of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which starts May 1. She joins Celia Cruz, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Jean King, Sally Ride and Frida Kahlo among the women who have been commemorated in the series.

"Truly an honor to be included in the Barbie series Inspiring Women," Yamaguchi, who is Japanese-American, said in an Instagram post on Wednesday upon the doll's release. "What fun it was to collaborate with Mattel on recreating this moment in time."

The doll is wearing a replica of Yamaguchi's black and gold tutu dress, her silver earrings and white skates. Her hair features a gold ribbon and her signature poofy bangs. The doll comes with a white and red flower bouquet that matches the one she held during the medal ceremony with her parents and older sister cheering her on.

“I only competed at the Olympics in that dress. … Even the world championships a month and a half after the Olympics, I wore a different dress,” Yamaguchi told NBC News. “That dress is so specific to that gold medal performance. It’s emotional in a way that it just brings back all of the memories from that moment.” 

The Kristi Yamaguchi Barbie doll stands on an ice rink set holding a bouquet of flowers.
Kristi Yamaguchi's Barbie doll comes with a flower bouquet matching the one she had at her gold medal ceremony. Credit: Mattel

Despite winning the 1991 world championships for her first major title, Yamaguchi went to Albertville, France as the underdog to win the Olympic gold medal. Fellow American Tonya Harding and Japanese star Midori Ito were considered the favorites because they could land a triple axel.

The Bay Area native made history at 20 years old when she wowed with her flourishing performances. Even though she stumbled on a jump midway through her free skate, her dazzling spins and electrifying jumps exemplified the emotion of her music. It was enough to cap off her competition and secure the gold.

During a 2020 roundtable with the Olympics, Yamaguchi said that going into the competition, she wasn't really thinking about representation. But the people reaching out to her afterwards showed what a big deal her win was and helped her appreciate the sacrifices her family made. The grandparents from both sides of her family spent time in internment camps during World War II. At the time of the Olympics, there was still fierce tension between the United States and Japan, specifically over trade in the automobile industry.

"Going in, it wasn't on my mind. I didn't really think about it," she said on "Time Machine." "Honestly, I felt like another California girl that grew up. It was more about, okay, I gotta land a triple lutz-triple toe. That's all I was really thinking about going into the Olympics. I think it was after when I received so much support and outreach from the Asian-American community is when it kinda hit me. Like wow, okay, what's going on here? ... I was able to really appreciate what it meant particularly to the Japanese-American community and then also just gaining a deeper appreciation for my family, my ancestors and everything that they had gone through in order for me to live the American dream."

The Kristi Yamaguchi Barbie doll poses as if it is skating on an ice rink with one leg extended.
Kristi Yamaguchi was the first Asian-American figure skater to win an Olympic gold medal. Barbie honored her with a doll as part of its Inspiring Women series. Credit: Mattel

Other Asian-American figure skaters have made their mark in the sport since Yamaguchi's gold medal. Mirai Nagasu was the first American woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics when she did so at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. Karen Chen was also part of the team and is mentored by Yamaguchi. At the same competition, Vincent Zhou became the first person to land a quadruple lutz at the Olympics. At the 2022 Winter Games, Chen was the first Asian-American man to win an Olympic gold medal.

After winning her gold medal, Yamaguchi toured with "Stars on Ice" and remained in the eye of pop culture through her children's books and her Always Dream foundation, which emphasizes childhood literacy. She also won season six of "Dancing with the Stars."

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