I'm old enough to remember the fuss about Dorothy Hamill, and I remember that there was much less fuss made about Kristi in terms of publicity, endorsements, and so on. At the time, I was very much aware of the discrepancy and wondered whether her ethnicity was a factor. (I think it pretty obviously was, though I think another component was Hamill's unusual star quality--she just had that innate sizzle that few people have.) I remember feeling very disappointed that, after 16 years without a figure skating gold medalist, America was not paying attention to Kristi.
I think things have progressed since Kristi's win (judging by Michelle's impact), and Kristi herself is part of the reason for the progress. She has always been gracious and her public conduct has been exemplary. Her long pro career (a lot of it seen on TV during those "golden years" of skating's highest popularity) and now her Dancing with the Stars stint have only added to her luster.
A sidelight to this topic: the name of this TV program, The Face of America, reminds me of that enjoyable TV series about Superman, Lois and Clark. When they cast Superman, instead of choosing some WASP with a chiseled profile and blue eyes to reflect the comic book rendition of the Man of Steel, they cast Dean Cain, and they didn't make him wear contact lenses to hide his brown eyes. Cain is part Japanese. I remember seeing his face and realizing with delight that he was, in the deepest sense, the All-American Superman. It was a small step forward, but to me (a big Superman fan from way back) it meant a great deal.