She captured gold at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, but famed figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi‘s greatest accomplishment may be the life she created after her competitive career.
Today, the 44-year-old resides in Alamo, California, with her husband of 15 years, former pro hockey player Bret Hedican (now a radio analyst for the San Jose Sharks), and their two daughters, Keara, 12, and Emma, 10.
“I’m a Cancer, so I’m very much a homebody,” Yamaguchi tells PEOPLE. “I love doing mom things. It’s especially exciting with Christmas coming up – we’ll be baking cookies!”
But family time isn’t all that Yamaguchi cherishes this holiday season. The skating champion, who will co-host the PANDORA Jewelry Holiday Celebrations on Ice show airing Sunday on ABC, opens up about what makes her happy – and offers these tips for finding bliss.
Discover your passion and pass it along
“Growing up, I was always on the quiet side, so I was into books,” says Yamaguchi, who cites Charlotte’s Web and Anne of Green Gables as two of her childhood favorites.
Today, she shares her love of reading with kids: She’s written two children’s books – Dream Big, Little Pig and It’s a Big World Little Pig – and is the founder of the Always Dream Foundation, which promotes childhood literacy.
“The best advice my husband and I got from our doctor was to start reading to our girls when they were only a few months old,” she says. “Now they’re avid readers!”
“I don’t miss competition all that much, but I do miss being in that kind of competitive shape,” says Yamaguchi. To stay fit, she does elliptical workouts a few times a week.
She’s also a fan of barre3, which combines Pilates, yoga and ballet barre work. “It’s a great full-body workout,” she says, “and takes just an hour out of my day.”
Reap the rewards
Twenty-three years after her golden moment, the accolades keep coming. On Oct. 28, Yamaguchi was inducted into the California Hall of Fame along with eight other luminaries, including Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, actor Robert Downey Jr., artist David Hockney and martial arts legend Bruce Lee.
“I’m a proud California Girl,” says Kristi, “so to be recognized by Governor Jerry Brown and his wife was a huge honor and a humbling experience.”
Find your happy place
Kristi raises two kids, oversees her foundation and participates in the occasional skating show – but don’t be fooled, she says: “I’m actually a lazy person who likes vegging out.” One of her favorite downtime destinations is Hawaii.
“My husband and I were married on the big island, but now with the kids we love Maui because it’s the perfect place to do fun activities.”
Keep it real
Despite her wholesome image, the Olympian admits she has her more colorful moments.
“I’m passionate about hockey,” she says. “If you saw me watching a San Jose Sharks game – screaming, cheering, getting mad – you’d see a whole other side of me.”
“Sure,” she says. “Even when I’m on the ice and I make a mistake, it’s hard not to say one of those words under my breath!”