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Olympian ‘tickled pink’ to inspire a Barbie doll

AP – Like many little girls, a young Kristi Yamaguchi loved playing with Barbie. With a schedule packed with ice skating practices, her Barbie dolls became her “best friends”.

So, it’s surreal for the decorated Olympian figure skater to now be a Barbie girl herself.

“It’s a huge, huge honour. I think a lot of pride comes along with it, not just recognising the Olympic achievement, but also being recognised during Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Month and following in the footsteps of some incredible women that I idolise – Anna May Wong, Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks,” Yamaguchi told The Associated Press. “It’s hard to see me put in the category with them.”

Yamaguchi, who became the first Asian American to win an individual figure skating gold medal, at the 1992 Winter Olympics, has been immortalised as a doll for Barbie’s ‘Inspiring Women Series’, Mattel announced yesterday. The release is timed for AAPI Heritage Month, in May.

This isn’t Yamaguchi’s first doll depiction. In the ‘90s, touring show Stars on Ice put out a line of dolls modeled after notable skaters. The Barbie version is a lot more detailed.

Mattel duplicated everything the then 20-year-old medalist wore at the Olympics in Albertville, France: the sparkling black-and-gold brocade outfit designed by Lauren Sheehan, the gold hair ribbon and even a red-and-white bouquet like Yamaguchi held atop the podium.

Yamaguchi said both she and Sheehan are “just so tickled pink”.

She also is happy with the doll’s visage.

“It looks like me for sure. You know, the eyes and just the shape of the face. And then, of course, the hair, for sure. I mean, it has the bangs that are the ‘90s,” Yamaguchi said, chuckling.

She appreciates that the doll’s release comes on the high heels of the blockbuster Barbie movie last year. Her daughters, ages 18 and 20, are fans of the Oscar-nominated film.

Their initial reaction to their mother being a Barbie? Disbelief.

“When they found out I was getting a doll, they were kind of flabbergasted and being like, ‘What? Like Mom, like how do you qualify? But that’s way too cool for you,’” Yamaguchi said.

Kristi Yamaguchi with a Barbie doll based on the figure skater. PHOTO: AP