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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

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Dorothy Hamill
Team USA

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Dorothy Hamill
Dorothy Hamill
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Dorothy Hamill Interview (page: 5 / 6)

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  Dorothy Hamill

Is it tough to deal with the political side of competitive skating? How do you deal with that?

Dorothy Hamill: My coach was a great politician, so he did most of the work. He was good. If the judges said, "Dorothy can't do school figures," he would have the judges come out, and he'd show that I could do them and say, "Now, tell me that this isn't good."

I just got so darn nervous when it was competition time, I completely flipped out. I mean, you're trying to trace these perfect circles, which are gone now today. They don't do those anymore. You get nervous and you hyperventilate and you see your life flashing in front of you and you start shaking. You know, you can't trace those circles. Also I was blind. Nobody knew I couldn't see. So the year before the Olympics I got glasses, so that helped a lot. There were all of these factors I think that contributed to part of my not feeling confident and being shy.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Did you ever feel victimized by the politics, or feel that scores were unjust?

Dorothy Hamill: Never. I will say, a couple of times I got marks that were better than what I should I have gotten, and a couple of times I probably got marks that were lower than I should have gotten. Sometimes it's criminal, the things that I've seen done, but in general it works out fairly. I wouldn't say that there's ever been an Olympic champion that didn't deserve to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

How do you feel in a competition, Olympics or otherwise, when you've already skated and you're sitting there waiting for those numbers to come up?

Dorothy Hamill Interview Photo
Dorothy Hamill: Relieved that it's over. At that point I don't even care about the numbers. You hope that they're good, but at that point it's just more of a relief. For me and for most of my friends it's like, "Okay, I didn't do this right and I didn't do that right," and you're already criticizing yourself. That's just the nature of competing with yourself.

As it must to all athletes at some point, it had to come to an end. You weren't going to compete anymore. How hard is it to give up the limelight of competition and eventually even the touring?

Dorothy Hamill: Well, I still tour. It's different today than it was then. In those days we were strictly amateurs. If I had wanted to stay in for the '80 Olympics, my parents couldn't have afforded it. They were dry. There was nothing left, my dad was so far in debt. So when I had the opportunity to turn pro I did. I stayed on and competed at the World Championships because I never had won a World Championship. I'd always been number two: "We try harder." But there really wasn't any question for me that I would turn pro. I'd done as much as I could. So I turned professional and skated with Ice Capades. Today the kids make money and they're not considered professionals. They're still considered Olympic eligibles, so there's never an issue whether they're going to turn pro or not. When they get to that level, money is never an issue. They make so much money now.

What were the rewards for you? Were your parents were there on the day you got the gold medal?

Dorothy Hamill: Yes. My father was in the arena, my mother was in the hotel. She wasn't a smoker, but she chain smoked that day! My dad was very proud.

My mom -- I remember walking into the hotel room and she said, "So, how did you do?" I said, "I won." And she looked at me startled and said, "You did?" She was shocked. She never congratulated me. I think she just never thought I would do it. But my dad, of course, was very proud. And I'm sure my mother was proud. I just didn't know. I guess about four years before the Olympics the goal was to try and make it to the Olympics and hopefully maybe win a medal. And then all of a sudden when that actually happens, it's disconcerting. I mean, now what? What happens now? We didn't plan for that. You know, we just planned for everything up until that moment. And then, "Oh now what?" So it was an interesting time.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

Dorothy Hamill Interview Photo
What disappointments have you suffered during your career and how have you dealt with them?

Dorothy Hamill: I've had lots of disappointments. I think one of the biggest misconceptions was that once you achieve that lifelong goal at the age of 19, you think that everything is going to be easy. The road really had just begun. If I had known then what I know now, I probably wouldn't be sitting here talking to you. After going to the Olympics and going to Worlds, I took a vacation for the first time in my life. I was just enjoying winning the gold medal. People were wining and dining me -- agents and managers and endorsements and all that stuff. I was just having a great time. I showed up for my first day of ice skating at Ice Capades and I had put on a few pounds. I showed up at rehearsal and one of the line skaters went over to one of his friends and says, "Honey, if I got to skate around her, you better call me a cab." That was my introduction to the world of professional skating. It was entirely different than what it is today, of course.

I ended up in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer after six months in the ice show. I was skating 13 shows a week. I was getting up at six o'clock to do AM Podunk, wherever we were, and the reporters saying, "We're not going to cover the ice show unless we can have Dorothy to interview." And here I am: shy! What am I going to say? I have nothing to say. I'm just a dumb ice skater. If you want to ask me about ice skating, I can tell you about skating, but don't ask me about anything else because I don't know anything else. You know, for all the hours I trained, all the double Axels I did, I didn't go to school, I didn't read, I didn't learn about anything else. And it was very difficult. I was completely unhappy.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Here is something that I loved doing, but I must say, I was probably burned out from skating.

I didn't really have a chance to enjoy my Olympic victory. I did for about a month before I had to go back and skate in a show. And it was a completely different way of ice skating. There was no training anymore. I was lucky if I got 45 minutes a day to practice. And I was away from my friends. Every week you're in a different city, living in hotels. And the other thing, I was used to getting up at five o'clock in the morning and skating every day, and now I'm up till midnight skating ice shows. And for my whole life I had gotten up at five and now all of a sudden I'm trying to learn how to sleep later on the days I don't have to do those early morning talk shows.

Dorothy Hamill Interview Photo
If I get up in the morning to do an early show, I try to go home and nap in the afternoon, but I can never do that. It just changed everything that I'd ever done. Professional skating is entirely different than training and competing. In the past there have been reporters that give professional skaters a bad rap. They say, 'Well, after the Olympics they decide to do the fluffy ice shows." It's not, it's just a different thing. You're out there to entertain the audience. You're not out there to land all your jumps without smiling and do these technical routines. The technical routines are not free and they're not fun and they're not beautiful, or they are in their own way. Some people criticize, "Skating's lost its grace,' and all of that. It hasn't. If you go see those skaters skate in exhibitions, they're beautiful and they're free and they're enjoying it, but when they're in competition it's very serious, and technical and difficult, as it should be.

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