Kristi Yamaguchi's "Underdog" Dancing Team Will Bring Some 'Tude to the Floor
It's going to be a showdown of Olympic proportions on the 200th episode of Dancing with the Stars, as Season 6 champ Kristi Yamaguchi and Season 4 winner Apolo Anton Ohno lead the top 6 pairs in a group dance face-off. "It's going to be fun and intense!" Yamaguchi, who won with Mark Ballas, tells TVGuide.com. "It's just an honor to be asked back for such a big celebration. I think a lot of us have incredible, positive, fun memories of our experience on the show, and to be able to play such a great part in such a big episode — I couldn't ask for more." So what's the former figure skater's plan of attack to take down her fellow Olympic gold medalist's team?
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TVGuide.com: How'd you pick your team? I'm assuming you chose Mark.
Yamaguchi: Yes! We alternated with picks. Apolo won the coin toss, so he picked first and he picked Jennifer [Grey]. Then I knew I wanted Mark and Bristol [Palin], so I picked them. Apolo then picked Brandy and Maks [Chmerkovskiy]. I thought Rick [Fox] and Cheryl [Burke] had been doing great all season long, so they were my next pick. And then Apolo picked Kurt [Warner], and I got Kyle [Massey]. I love Kyle. He's such a great performer and I think that's going to bring a lot to the table, especially in the group dance.
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TVGuide.com: What does your job as team captain entail?
Yamaguchi: well, no choreography! I'm trying to inspire and motivate them, like "This is what Mark and I was thinking during our dance and that's what inspired us, so hopefully you can channel that as well and go for it." And hopefully just bringing out the best of what each other them has.
TVGuide.com: What advice have you given them?
Yamaguchi: Of course for Bristol, it's, "Hey, you've got it! Be confident!" I want to see her break out of her shell and come out and just dance and enjoy it. She needs to let go, which is something I had to learn on the show, so I can identify with that. Kyle — I just want him to have fun and bring the house down. Rick — the cha-cha is a flirty and sexy dance, and I think he can bring all those elements. We've got a great song. It's high-energy and it's got attitude, and that's what I want from them.
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TVGuide.com: Do you think the cha-cha is a good choice?
Yamaguchi: Definitely! I loved it when I did it! It was probably one of my favorite dances. It's a fun dance and it's all about performance, so I think it's perfect for a group dance. I think our goal is just selling it. Technique will be there. Most of them have done the cha-cha. Kyle and Bristol have and they were great. We want to get the fan votes. We're the underdogs. We've been calling ourselves the underdog team, so we want to do get out there, bring some attitude, and do something entertaining and fun.
TVGuide.com: What do you think of the season so far?
Yamaguchi: Season's been good. There have been some ups and downs, so it'll be interesting to see who's going to bring it each week. It's still kind of up in the air with who the finalists will be. I don't know if I was shocked, but surprised that Audrina [Patridge] left. She was in second place in the scores. It's tough. There are so many factors that go into it that it's hard to predict.
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TVGuide.com: Do you have any favorites? Are you biased toward Mark?
Yamaguchi: [Laughs] Mark is incredible. But they have their work cut out for them for the finals if they make it there. I like Jennifer. ... Brandy's coming on strong now. They both have great partners with Maks and Derek [Hough]. They just need to be creative in pushing them.
TVGuide.com: There have been so many changes and themes this season, compared to yours. Do you think you would've liked all the surprises, or do you prefer the week-to-week consistency?
Yamaguchi: I kind of like knowing and having that consistency, but I think the changes add excitement. With the different dances and themes, it just adds to the entertainment value of everything. I think it's cool. But that's coming from a viewer standpoint. I'm not sure how I would feel if this was my season!
TVGuide.com: I was surprised none of your dances made it onto the top 10 favorite dances list.
Yamaguchi: [Laughs] Oh! I don't know. I mean, to really choose from hundreds of dances and cut it down to 10? It's so hard. There were some great ones there. It's hard for me to compare myself to others, so you know. My favorite dance of ours was our foxtrot. That was our first dance. There was something special about that one. It was the whole feeling of debuting on the dance floor.
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TVGuide.com: Apolo had two dances on the list. So you need to win this to even the score.
Yamaguchi: Yeah, exactly! That's my motivation to beat him! We can take him down! [Laughs] We'll see. He's got a strong team. He's got the top two dancers from this season, but I think we've got a great mix of pros and celebs.
TVGuide.com: What else are you working on?
Yamaguchi: Right now, I'm filming a fitness DVD, so that will be coming out soon. We have two different routines we're taping. I designed a women's active wear line and I also have a children's picture book coming out in the spring. It was inspired by my daughters because we spend so much time reading books. It's called Dream Big, Little Pig. ... I would love to write another one. It's a great character, so I hope she goes on and experiences other things. Maybe dancing, who knows!