‘Greatest gold medal of all’

I’m grateful for how far we’ve come in encouraging young girls to dream big – and I know Barbie’s work to tell more diverse stories has played a role in that.


When I started skating at the age of six, I loved Dorothy Hamill so much that I had a Dorothy doll and sat her on the edge of the rink to watch me spin around on the ice.

Fourteen years later, I followed her path to becoming the first American female figure skater to win Olympic gold since Dorothy in 1976. And now, three decades later, Barbie is honoring me with my very own doll as the newest addition to the Inspiring Women Series. .

As a six-year-old, I never thought I would be where I am today. And who knows what I would have been more excited about: winning an Olympic gold medal or having my own Barbie. But I only came here because as a young girl I was able to discover my dreams and have the support and determination to achieve them.

In this chapter of my life, I want to give children the same opportunity to find their passions and pursue them relentlessly. But there’s an important ingredient to that, and it starts with having a wild imagination and role models to look up to.

There are several ways we can cultivate an imaginative mind in children. For example, books unlock the imagination, and that is where dreams are born. When children open a book, they open up their world.

I think puppetry has the same power.

From winning Olympic gold to setting up Always Dream

My Dorothy doll wasn’t just a decoration at the rink; it helped me discover a dream deep inside and inspired me to trust that I was worth it. I hope my Barbie Inspiring Women doll does the same for children as they explore their futures and discover what is available to them.

Once I achieved that dream of winning an Olympic gold medal in 1992, I felt like there was something more I could do. I received so much support as a young skater – from my family, community and coaches – and I wanted the same opportunity for other kids.

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Working with children and raising my own girls, I quickly realized that a child’s success in life starts with a basic education and an interest in reading.

In 1996, I founded Always Dream, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase children’s literacy by providing access to books and encouraging families to read together. The name comes from the way I signed off when signing autographs (“Always Dream, Kristi”) – a piece of inspiration taken from Brian Boitano, who once gave me an autograph with the reminder: “Follow your dreams.”

What could be bigger than winning a gold medal?

I couldn’t be more excited that as part of our partnership, Barbie will make a donation to my organization and help empower Asian American women and girls, while also increasing educational resources for all young girls.

As a mother of two daughters, I’m grateful for how far we’ve come in encouraging young girls to dream big – and I know Barbie’s work to tell more diverse stories has played a role in that.

When I was 20, I didn’t look like most American figure skaters — let alone an Olympic gold medalist. But through the power of my imagination and by looking at women who had come before me, I discovered my passions, pushed through the obstacles and dared to make my dreams come true.

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A book is more than just a book, and a doll is more than just a doll. As a 6-year-old, I found it meaningful to have Dorothy’s doll next to me as I jumped, fell, and picked myself up again. She was there for me, reminded me of my dream and inspired me to never give up on it.

If I can do the same for other young girls with my Barbie Inspiring Women doll, that might be the biggest gold medal of all.

Kristi Yamaguchi, founder of the Always Dream foundation for children, is the first Asian American to win an individual figure skating gold medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics.