DOROTHY HAMILL … ICE CAPADES HEADLINER, 1977 84 … OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL, FIGURE SKATING, 1976 … WORLD CHAMPION, 1976 … 3-TIME UNITED STATES NATIONAL CHAMPION, 1974 76 You can take an ol’ mule and run him and feed him and train him and get him in the best shape of his life, but you ain’t going to win the Kentucky Derby. P EPP ER MARTIN, baseball player, St. Louis Cardinals 42 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Iwas a bad student and I was painfully shy growing up. One day my mom and I decided to try something new, figure skating. So, at eight years old, I started skating and entered my first competition at nine. It was held at the Wollmann Rink in New York City’s Central Park, and I felt like such an outsider. All the other girls had these great outfits and knew each other and I was alone, wearing a dress that went down past my knees. Somehow I managed to come in second, and I had so much fun. I can’t explain what a thrill it was and at that moment a new world opened up for me. I found one place in my life where I felt comfortable. THE OLYMPICS: NOW, THAT WOULD BE COOL! I kept skating without a goal until 1967 when, as a Christmas present, my parents gave me tickets to watch Peggy Fleming compete at the Olympic qualifiers.
I thought, Wow, she is brilliant, and it was the first time I realized how cool the Olympics would be, without thinking I was Olympic material, of course. TRAINING, YES. SACRIFICE, NO As I got older, I got more serious, training whenever I could, even going up to Lake Placid in the summer when my friends would go off to summer camp. Going to Lake Placid was not a sacrifice for me because I just loved it. In fact, I did not sacrifice my childhood to skating. I was a shy kid who felt comfortable on the ice. My parents never pushed me. If anything, I pushed them to keep me out there on the ice. I would practice fours a day and fought for more, not less. BREAKTHROUGH A great moment for me was winning the national championship in the novice division at twelve. At fourteen came the real testI began to compete with the big guns. And when I placed fifth in Oklahoma, it was the first time I realized I could compete with the best in the country. People started looking at me as an Olympic hopeful, but I never bought into that. DOROTHY HAMILL 43 OLYMPICS I began to realize that making the 1976 U.S. Olympic team was a possibility, though at nineteen actually winning never crossed my mind. But I did make the team, and to my amazement, earned the Gold . . . it seemed like the whole world watched! I skated, laughed, and cried, and my life has never been the same.
To this day I don’t feel worthy of it. IN ADDITION Skating was where I first learned about winning and losing in life. It’s where I learned the ethic of hard work, which I thrived on then and today. I learned to love being pushed by my coaches and I learned to respond in kind. I’m not saying I would not have learned all these things about life and myself without skating, but I don’t know anywhere else I could have picked it all up as quickly and as cleanly. For some reason, anywhere else in my life when people would challenge me or tell me I was not good enough, I would take it personally and more than likely agree that I did not measure up. Overall, there is nothing better than knowing you have done your homework, put in the hours studying, and done your best. It far outweighs the feeling of winning or losing. THE WRAP Here’s an example of a young girl needing sports to help her belong rather than needing them to grow. Dorothy loved to practice, possibly because staying on the ice beat leaving it, where she felt totally out of her element. Winning the Olympics forced her out of her shell and made her grow up almost before the world’s eyes. Now, finally, Dorothy Hamill can feel like she has life on and off the ice.
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