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Yamaguchi leads on "Dancing with the Stars"

1992 Olympic champ emerges as biggest threat on ABC hit

Kristi Yamaguchi scored 27 out of a possible 30 points on ABC's hit reality show, <i>Dancing with the Stars.</i>
Kristi Yamaguchi scored 27 out of a possible 30 points on ABC's hit reality show, Dancing with the Stars. (courtesy of ABC Television )

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By Linda Przygodski
(03/19/2008) - Kristi Yamaguchi said she was "nervous" to dance on Tuesday's ladies premiere of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, but it turns out her jitters weren't necessary. She was the class of the field among the ladies, scoring 27 out of 30 possible points with her partner, Mark Ballas.

"Skaters are flat-footed," said Yamaguchi, who traded in blades for 3-inch jazz shoes.

Yamaguchi was quick to let people know that her skating experience didn't give her much of a leg up as far as ballroom dancing was concerned. But her fears were short lived, for once she hit the floor with Ballas to perform the Foxtrot, set to "The More I See You," she looked like she'd been doing the routine for years.

"I'm competitive," said Yamaguchi. "I want to win."

In the history of the show, there has only been one female winner, Kelly Monaco in the first season. One fellow Olympian, Apolo Anton Ono, won the trophy two seasons ago, and last year, it went to IRL's spider-man, Helio Castroneves; both athletes were paired with dancer Julianne Hough. Previous winners include Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith, who both were victorious under the tutelage of professional dancer, Cheryl Burke.

Yamaguchi and Ballas garnered a nine from each of the three judges. Yamaguchi was complimented for her precision and timing and singled out as one of the best amateur dancers to ever perform in the opening round.

Ballas choreographed the Foxtrot to specifically play to Yamaguchi's strengths, capitalizing on her graceful lines and upper body movements, something the Olympian was known for in her figure skating career.

At the end of the evening, Yamaguchi and Ballas were in the lead, with tennis great Monica Seles in last place.