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Yamaguchi tops Olympic Hall class

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As a child figure skater, Kristi Yamaguchi carried around a Dorothy Hamill doll for inspiration. Just as Hamill won Olympic gold in 1976, Yamaguchi did the same in 1992.

These days, Yamaguchi has a newborn in her arms. Her second daughter, Emma, was born Nov.17. So she won't attend the ceremony tonight in Chicago in which she will be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Her father, Jim, will accept.

"I have so many positive memories. This is the ultimate honor," says Yamaguchi, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., with her husband, Bret Hedican, an NHL player with the Carolina Hurricanes.

They have another daughter, Keara, 2. "Friends and Family" is the theme of a figure skating show Yamaguchi will co-host with Olympic champ Scott Hamilton. Yamaguchi, 34, doesn't skate in the show to be aired Dec.31 on NBC.

She's not sure what her future holds as far as skating: "Right now, I'm pretty much focused on the home front."

Do she and Hedican, whom she first met when he also was a 1992 Olympian, ever skate together?

"Not like together, together," she says. "Sometimes, we'll share ice in the summer. If I was practicing and he just kind of wanted to get on the ice and skate around and handle the puck a little bit."

She plans to watch the 2006 Winter Olympics on TV, and her 2-year-old is already showing interest: "She loves watching the skating. She's already been to several shows, and she does watch daddy play hockey."

Yamaguchi also is looking forward to watching the U.S. championships on TV in January and expects lively competition: "I think it is pretty open in all categories. ... No matter what, I'm sure it will be a strong team."

Other Olympians to be inducted tonight in the Class of 2006 include sprinter Evelyn Ashford, swimmer Rowdy Gaines, gymnast Shannon Miller and the 1984 men's gymnastics team (Bart Conner, Tim Daggett, Mitch Gaylord, Jim Hartung, Scott Johnson, Peter Vidmar and alternate Jim Mikus). Chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics Dick Ebersol also will be inducted as a special contributor.

To be inducted posthumously: sprinter Bob Hayes, hockey coach Herb Brooks, Paralympic skier Diana Golden-Brosnihan and speedskater Jack Shea.

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