Figure skating star Kristi Yamaguchi says American women need to go for it at the World Championships in Canada this weekend.
"A year before the Olympics is not the time to be conservative," the 1992 Olympic champion said. "This is the time to go for it and push yourself for how you want to be set up for the next year."
Yamaguchi, a two-time world champion from Fremont, was speaking a few hours after the ladies short program Thursday in which Ashley Wagner finished fifth and Gracie Gold ninth.
Wagner, the two-time reigning U.S. champion, talked about skating conservatively in the short program to keep the Americans in contention to earn three Olympic berths for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Wagner and Gold need to finish in a combination that adds to 13 or lower to get the coveted third spot. They currently have a combined total of 14 with the free skate scheduled for Saturday.
Yamaguchi, who will appear Sunday at the San Francisco Bulls' game to promote her Always Dream Foundation, says the Americans should forget about that third spot.
"Sure it is pressure but ultimately it is something they should push aside and focus on the task at hand and that is skating as clean as they can," Yamaguchi said.
"It would be amazing if they both could accomplish the goal of getting three spots. But it's hard to put that pressure on the skaters. It's not the only reason they are there."
It's personal for Wagner, who finished third at the 2010 Olympic trials but didn't compete in Vancouver because the United States had earned only two berths after a poor showing at the previous World Championships.
Wagner and Gold have set themselves apart from the rest of the U.S. skaters, according to Yamaguchi. But she added that the American women are deep a year before the Sochi Games with Christina Gao and Mirai Nagasu as those capable of doing well.
Still, the U.S. women don't appear ready to challenge the lissome Asian skaters who dominate the standings.
Olympic champion Kim Yu-Na of South Korea looked spectacular in the short program Thursday in her return after 19 months away. Italy's Carolina Kostner enters the long program in second place, followed by Japan's Kanako Murakami.
Yamaguchi praised the Asian skaters' consistency over the past two years but added, "It will be interesting to see if they will stay on this path. There is a little more pressure."
Yamaguchi, 41, has remained close to skating but her passion has been the Always Dream Foundation that she started in1996. The group promotes early childhood literacy.
"Looking back to '92 you just never imagine what will lie ahead with you," she said. "I'm always looking for another challenge. For the most part to have established Always Dream has allowed me to do something that my whole family is involved with and can continue when I'm gone."
The Bulls, the area's minor league hockey team, is working with the foundation as part of their community outreach.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.