At the 1992 Winter Olympics, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi became the first Asian American to win a gold medal in a Winter Olympics. Afterward, the then-20-year-old went on to win her second world championship before later touring the world as a professional skater. Now 46, she is an ambassador for Team Milk, where she helps empower the next generation of Olympians and Paralympians, including figure skater Karen Chen, the 18-year-old she mentors who is representing Team USA at Pyeongchang.
While she’s supporting the newest batch of Olympians this month, Yamaguchi proves she is still impressive on the ice. In the video above, she demonstrates challenging moves like the axel jump, the Flying Camel Spin, and the Layback Spin—and then explains exactly how figure skaters do these impressive athletic feats.
Yamaguchi begins by first explaining a key tool in the figure skater arsenal: the skate edge. “There is a hollow under the blade that’s curved on the bottom, and that gives us the ability to use that rocker for the jumps, to lift, to spin,” she said. She then talks us through five jumps and spins that are all enabled by applying force to or balancing on one or both edges. Each move is part skill, part artistry, and pure awe-inspiring athleticism. Take the Biellmann Spin, which she describes like this: “You go into a forward spin, and as you continue to spin faster and faster you’re pulling the leg up behind [your] head, so [you’re] almost folded in half.” Easy, right?
Yamaguchi’s commentary isn’t all about the highly skilled techniques you need to become a world-class figure skater—some of her advice is helpful both on and off the ice. “You really need to be balanced and committed,” she says when describing how to pull off the perfect axel jump. Whether or not you’ve ever set foot on an ice rink, that’s something that still rings true for us all.
Watch Kristi Yamaguchi decode her own figure-skating moves in the video above.