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If you like Dorothy Hamill's story, you might also like:
Tenley Albright,
Susan Butcher,
Suzanne Farrell,
Scott Hamilton,
Sally Ride
and Amy Tan

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Dorothy Hamill in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Amazing Olympic Games

Related Links:
Dorothy Hamill
Team USA

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Dorothy Hamill
Dorothy Hamill
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Dorothy Hamill Interview (page: 2 / 6)

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  Dorothy Hamill

How old were you when you started skating?

Dorothy Hamill: Eight-and-a-half.

Compared to the kids today it was late in life, yes! Yes. It would probably be too late. Fortunately in those days there weren't as many skaters and I was just driven. I was passionate. I found something that I loved. I could be all alone in a big old skating rink and nobody could get near me and I didn't have to talk to anybody because of my shyness. It was great. I was in my fantasy world.

I read somewhere that in the very beginning you would take your brother's ice skates and stuff socks in them?

Dorothy Hamill: Yes.

I would go visit my grandparents or my aunt and uncle who had a big farm in Connecticut. And at that point I didn't have my own skates. So we'd go some place and everybody always had old skates lying around. And I think my brother had given my cousin a pair of skates and I had stuffed socks in the toes because they were too big. And I would go out and try and skate, either at my grandmother's house or at my uncle's farm. So that was really in the pond skating days. So it was before the private lessons started, or the group lessons started.

What do you think the teachers saw in you that made them think you had potential as an ice skater?

Dorothy Hamill: I don't really think they saw anything in me, except the fact that I was interested in it. Some of the kids would miss a week here and miss a week there; I think they could see that I really enjoyed it.

I wasn't particularly athletic or gifted. I was a little chubby, but I loved it. I guess because I would -- my mom would take me to the skating rink on the weekends. This is after I had gotten started. She'd drop me off for the first public session at eleven in the morning, and I'd stay there all day, and then she'd pick me up at five o'clock and take me home. So I'd be at the skating rink all day long, just skating around and around.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

How long did it take you to learn how to skate backward?

Dorothy Hamill Interview Photo
Dorothy Hamill: Let's see. In group lesson number six I think we learned how to turn backwards and then just kind of wiggle. That wasn't really skating backward, but I guess I was going in the right direction.

When did you start to think this was something you could be special at? When did you start to dream about being a skater and competing?

Dorothy Hamill: Some of those years are sort of muddled together for me. My mother took me to see an ice show. It was Holiday on Ice in New York City. It was about 1967, before Peggy Fleming won the Olympics. There were really no exhibitions then. There were no competitions on television. The first skating competition I ever remember seeing on television was the 1968 Olympics when Peggy Fleming won. Kids today can watch it on television, but we didn't know there were such things as competitions. I really started dreaming about competing at the national level almost immediately after my first big competition, not just a local pond competition. I was probably 11.

You realized that you were going to have to compete in front of people and judges, despite your shyness.

Dorothy Hamill: I didn't realize that. I was just ice skating. I had no concept of that. In those days you couldn't see the judges. I was this little person on the ice and they were just people that would stand around the boards. That's what skating was all about in those days. I didn't even know where the judges sat. It's so different now.

At some point your family had to make an important decision, didn't they? Were they going to devote all of this time and money and energy to your ice skating, or were you going to stay in school and have a different kind of childhood?

Dorothy Hamill: In those days, we had to stay in school. There was not the possibility of the way kids today can not go to school and be a great ice skater and earn money at the same time as they're training for the Olympics and competing at the Olympics. For me, there was never any decision. It was just what I was going to do. I know my parents, a few times they'd say, "If you're really serious about this, if you're really committed to this -- " Because I knew -- or I didn't know -- but it was for financial reasons. For me there was never any question that I wouldn't do it. And I guess my parents must have seen that. And also they were probably thinking, "Well, what else is she going to do?"

When I started getting very serious about it, I would travel for competitions, and I did have to go to a tutoring school at one point because I missed some school. My coach was in New York City so I stayed in New York City during the week. I was away from home so I'd go to school in New York; that started when I was about 13. Once I got into it, it all happened very quickly. I'm having a hard time even remembering it, because it was so long ago. It really seems as though it was another lifetime.

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This page last revised on Oct 19, 2011 23:30 EDT
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