Kristi Yamaguchi, <EM>Dancing with the Stars</EM> Kristi Yamaguchi, Dancing with the Stars
Kristi Yamaguchi goes up against the boys this week on Dancing with the Stars ' sixth season finale as she faces off against NFL star Jason Taylor and Latino actor Cristián de la Fuente. In what promises to be a fantastic night of cha cha chas and freestyle dances, Kristi and her partner Mark Ballas could be the ones to end the mens' streak — there hasn't been a female winner since Season 1's Kelly Monaco. But this Olympic gold medalist says she's too busy having fun to think about that.

TV You've been a favorite from the start, and it's been a while since a woman has won Dancing with the Stars. Are you feeling any extra pressure?
Kristi Yamaguchi: No, I'm not looking at it as extra pressure. I think there's been pressure throughout the competition. I'm really proud and thankful for the fans who have voted us all the way through. At this point, I just want to dance my heart out and do all I can and hopefully have a good time.

TV You'll be going up Cheryl and Edyta. One of them is the two-time champion and the other is a show veteran.  What tricks are you and Mark planning to pull out for your freestyle?
Kristi: We've definitely got tricks up our sleeve. We've been working really hard and I think we've got some good surprises in store.

TV If you make it to the final two, who would you like to go up against?
Yamaguchi: Both Cristián and Jason bring something different, so I think both will be equally difficult competitors.

TV Is your partner Mark really as nice as he seems?
Yamaguchi: Mark is really patient, and he's an amazing teacher. He's obviously a very talented and innovative choreographer, and we work really, really well together. I'm used to being in the mode of the student, and I don't mind letting him take the lead. It's been a blast, so I think it works out well with this relationship.

TV You guys seem to have a really nice rapport. I hear that Mark and your husband (NHL star Bret Hedican) have started playing music together.
Yamaguchi: My husband is a self-taught musician and does it as a hobby. Mark is actually a real musician and has a band of his own. They have a lot in common, and they enjoy talking and playing music together.

TV How do you manage your time between training, family and your other commitments?
Yamaguchi: It's been tough. Dancing with the Stars has really consumed my life at this point. I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support of my husband, who has been here with me the whole time. It's rotated throughout the weeks with different people helping out. I definitely wouldn't be able to do this show without all the extra help.

TV Were you hesitant to come on the show?
Yamaguchi: They extended the invitation, and I met with them and got the lowdown on what to expect. I took a couple weeks to make the decision and work out the logistics. Part of me really wanted to do it because I love the show. The thought of learning how to dance intrigued me, but at the same time I was like, "Do I really want to be nervous every Monday and Tuesday night and put myself out there on live television?" It's a scary, scary thing.

TV What's the best advice Mark has given you?
Yamaguchi: The best thing he's done is just prepare me for every Monday. We work really hard — we spend six to eight hours in the studio a day. Were adding on hours now because this week we have three dances to get ready. It's really non-stop. He has been good at knowing how to push me and how far to push me.

TV What advice do you have for next year's dancers?
Yamaguchi: I wanted to do it because it always looked like everyone was having so much fun.  Don't stress out. It's not the Olympics. It's not your career on the line. This is fun. If you're enjoying it, the audience is going to enjoy it.

TV What's been your favorite dance?
Yamaguchi: That's a tough one. I really loved all of them. I would say our tango this week was one I enjoyed doing, and our first jive was fun too.

TV Which dance has been the hardest for you?
Yamaguchi: Definitely the samba. I think we danced it well, but we got our toughest criticism on that dance. It just showed me how technically difficult it is to get the correct motions of the samba.

TV Is it weird to be ballroom dancing to music that you're used to hearing on the radio?
Yamaguchi: A little bit. I think it's a way to keep the show interesting and current because otherwise it would be boring ballroom music that no one knows. It's nice to modernize it and keep the audience entertained.

TV Will you keep on dancing?
Yamaguchi: I think so. Obviously not to this extent, but I think socially it would be fun to do.

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