Who is Dorothy Hamill?
Dorothy Stuart Hamill is an American figure skater who won the gold medal at the Winter Olympic Games in Austria in 1976 and is also an actor. She is known for her moves on the rink as well as signature bobbed haircut. She won the World Championship title in Sweden and became known as ‘America’s Sweetheart’ for her looks as well as determination. In addition to mastering various moves in figure skating, she is credited with inventing new moves of her own. One such move is the ‘Hamill Camel’, which is a combination of a ‘Camel’ and ‘Sit Spin’. Post her professional career, she toured with the show, ‘Ice Capades’ from 1977 to 1984. She also won a Daytime Emmy for her performance in ‘Romeo and Juliet on Ice’ (1983). In January 2008, Hamill announced that she had breast cancer and moved to Nantucket, Massachusetts for treatment. She is presently working with Nantucket skating club and also works with several charity organisations including the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the International Special Olympics and the American Cancer Society. Her name is included in the United States as well as World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and the Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink in her hometown of Greenwich is named after her.
Childhood & Early Life
Dorothy Hamill was born on Jul 26, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois, to Chalmers and Carol Hamill. Her father was a mechanical engineer who was known to be a heavy drinker. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to the Riverside neighbourhood of Greenwich, Connecticut, where she was brought up. She was a shy child with an elder brother and sister.
She learnt to skate with her siblings on her grandparents’ pond at an early age. Her parents recognised her potential and allowed her to take lessons at the age of eight to improve her technique, including skating backwards. This was despite not being close to her mother and having difficult relations with her parents.
She became serious about her sport and began to practice at 4:30 AM every morning in order to pass her preliminaries and first figure skating test. Her father spent a large fortune on her training.
She was first coached by Otto Gold and Gustave Lussi. Due to limited ice time in her hometown she ultimately trained at the Sky Rink in New York City. She also trained in Lake Placid, New York and later in Toronto.
She attended public school in Riverside until the spring of 1970 and then switched to a small school with flexible timings in order to accommodate her skating schedule. Finally she graduated from Colorado Academy high school.
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Hamill’s first national success came when she won the novices ladies’ title at the US Championship in 1969 at the age of 12. Later that spring she was invited to perform in Madison Square Garden with the exhibition tour that later came to be known as ‘Champions on Ice’.
She was second in the 1970 junior level US championship and made her senior debut in 1971. She was US champion from 1974 to 1976. The US Figure Skating Association recognised her talent and arranged for her to be coached by Carlo Fassi when she began to compete internationally.
Dorothy made her big breakthrough when she won the silver medal at the World Championship in Munich, Germany in 1974. She again won the silver medal at the World Championship in Colorado Springs in 1975.
At the age of 19 she won the gold medal at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games at Innsbruck, Austria. Shortly after this she went on to win the World Championship title at Gothenburg, Sweden and then went professional. She was the last single skater to win the Olympics without a triple jump.
From1977 to 1984 she toured extensively with the show ‘Ice Capades’. She also produced and starred in her own touring productions, including ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Nutcracker’.
In 1993 she and her husband, Kenneth Forsythe, bought the company that ran ‘Ice Capades’ as it was having financial difficulties. However, they were later declared bankrupt and sold it to the firm ‘International Family Entertainment’ owned by Pat Robertson. She continued to skate on shows, including the show ‘Broadway on Ice’, where she is a regular performer.
She was selected to run the torch into the Olympic Stadium at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
She debuted as a judge on the television show, ‘Skating with Celebrities’ in 2006 and in 2007 was a special guest in the Brian Boitano-Barry Manilow skating extravaganza at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
She also appeared in the infomercial, hosted by Cindy Crawford and Karyn Bryant, for Cindy’s ‘Meaningful Beauty’ anti-aging skin care system (2007).
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In 2013 she was one of the contestants in ABC’s popular dance competition, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ where country singer Wynonna Judd, funny man DL Hughley, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and many other celebrities participated. She was forced to withdraw from the competition after two dances due to an injury of the spine.
She released her book, ‘On and Off the Ice’ in 1983.
In 2007 Dorothy Hamill published her autobiography, ‘A Skating Life: My Story’.
She also acted in the movies ‘The Dorothy Hamill Special’ (1976); ‘Dorothy Hamill Presents Winners’ (1978), and, ‘A Tribute to George and Ira Gershwin: A Memory of All That’ (1998)
Awards & Achievements
She won the U.S. Championship in the Novice category in the year 1968-69 and stood second at the junior level of the same championship in the year 1969-70. Thereafter she became three times United States National Champion from 1974 to 1976.
Dorothy’s initial international titles were the Nebelhorn Trophy and St. Gervais for the year 1971-1972 where she stood first. She also secured first place and won the Richmond Trophy for 1972-1973.
In 1976 she was the Winter Olympic Gold Medal winner held at Austria and was also declared the World Champion in Ladies Singles held at Sweden the same year.
She is credited with inventing her own moves called the ‘Hamill Camel’.
She was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame and subsequently, World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1991 and 2000 respectively and has a skating rink named after her in her hometown in Greenwich, Connecticut.
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Among many other awards, the National Young American Award by Boys Scouts (1976), Daytime Emmy Award (1983), and Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award in 1996 stand out.
Personal Life & Legacy
Dorothy Hamill married and divorced twice. Her marriage to singer cum actor Dean Paul Martin lasted from 1982 to 1984 and that with her second husband, Kenneth Forsythe, from 1987 to 1995. She got married for a third time to John MacColl in 2009. She has a daughter, Alexandra, from her second marriage, with whom she lived in Baltimore, Maryland for some time.
For much of her adult life she was suffering from depression for which she was under medical treatment. She also had to be treated for breast cancer in 2008. Her daughter is also known to suffer from depression.
She gave vent to her emotions at the 1974 Munich World Championship where she left the ice and burst into tears because the audience booed the marks of the previous performer while she was already on the ice and set to skate. However, she returned later and went on to win the silver medal.
She had to be treated for a pulled hamstring, believed to be a pulled ligament, while training in Denver a month prior to the 1975 US Championship. Despite the injury, she competed in the championship and said that she was fine.
She was disappointed with her performance at the 1976 US Championship, admitting that she was outperformed by Linda Fratianne, which she attributed to her poor training. Immediately after the competition her coach, Carlo Fassi, left to accompany his other favourite star, John Carry, leaving Hamill minus a coach a few weeks before the Olympics. He returned just for a brief period and trained her in Germany before the games.
Her glasses with oversized frames and bobbed hairstyle became her trademark. Each of these, independently ignited a fashion trend due to which the media dubbed her ‘America’s Sweetheart’.
In 1993, the national sports study released by the Associated Press showed her statistically tied at first place with fellow Olympian, Mary Lou Retton, for the most popular athlete in America, ranking far ahead of stars such as Michael Jordan, Tory Aikman and Joe Montana.
She was a mentor to three time US Championship silver medallist and 2010 gold medallist, Rachael Flatt who also trained at Colorado Springs.