King of the Ice
February 16, 2021
This 1984 Olympic Gold medalist was, perhaps, the most unlikely of stars to achieve brilliance. To this day he is, however, one of the most popular U.S. men’s figure skaters ever; an individual who is a testament to the power of determination, hard work, and a positive attitude.
It was on February 16, 1984, when 25 year old Scott Hamilton won Olympic Gold at the games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (Now Bosnia and Herzegovina)
His skating story began 14 years earlier when he first took to the ice at age 11. Two years later, he was entering skating competitions. For the athletically inclined Hamilton, choosing an appropriate sport was likely a challenge.
When he was two years old he stopped growing. What followed were tests and speculation over why. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“After numerous tests and several wrong diagnoses (including a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis that gave him just six months to live), the disease began to correct itself. His family physician sent him to Boston Children’s Hospital to see a Dr. Shwachman. He was told the doctor had no idea what was wrong and to go home and stop the diets in order to live a normal life. Years later, it was determined that a congenital brain tumor was the root cause of his childhood illness.”
The impact was huge. During the years of his greatest amateur skating success he was only 5 feet 2 ½ inches tall and weighed 108 pounds. Obviously, playing football or ice hockey was not an option.
Hamilton parlayed his small stature – what many would see as a liability – into his greatest asset. Not only was he was fast on the ice, but he developed his athleticism such that he made the jumps and his intricate footwork look effortless. Although not allowed in competition, his signature back flip at the end of his exhibition routines always brought fans to their feet. Only the strongest and most daring of skaters can successfully execute the move.
When he retired from amateur skating, he was the 1984 reigning world champion in the Men’s division. From there he went on to have a successful professional career and has, arguably, done more to elevate the sport of ice skating than any other individual ever. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“After turning professional, Hamilton toured with the Ice Capades for two years, and then created ‘Scott Hamilton’s American Tour,’ which later was renamed Stars on Ice. He co-founded, co-produced and performed in Stars on Ice for 15 years before retiring from the tour in 2001 (though he still returns for occasional guest performances).
He has been awarded numerous skating honors, including being the first solo male figure skater to be awarded the Jacques Favart Award (in 1988). In 1990 he was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.”
His road in life has not been easy. He survived testicular cancer in 1997 only to have a second brain tumor be discovered in 2004. After a successful surgery for the benign tumor, yet a third tumor was found in 2016. So far he’s been successful in shrinking the tumor through dietary changes.
Although I’d watched Olympic figure skating before, it was the 1984 Olympics and Scott Hamilton particularly, which became the impetus for a decade of following the sport. And what better place to be for watching the Olympics than in a magical place such as Whistler.
The hubby and I – along with his sister and mother – had joined a Whatcom Community college group for a weekend skiing sojourn. Yes, I was 26 years old when I took my first lessons… at Whistler. At the end of each day, we’d return to the rental house (a precursor to the AirBnB concept) for food and fellowship and to watch the Olympics. And what an Olympics it was. We rooted for hometown favorites Rosalyn Summers, Phil and Steve Mahre, and Oregonian Bill Johnson.
The memory that sticks with me most is of the hubby and my sister-in-law out at a pub in Whistler Village. The TV is on over the bar and we are watching the events. But we can’t hear the play by play because there is no sound. Instead, dance music is blaring through the bar. And the pair of them – hubby and sister – are ‘dancing’ while sitting in their chairs, and making quite the spectacle. I imagine the pub owners had second thoughts about those chairs as they were on wheels which allowed the chair dancing shenanigans. Shenanigans which, I might add, nearly got us kicked out of that bar.
Home a few days later, I cheered as I watched Scott Hamilton win the Gold medal, the first US man to do so in the Olympics in 24 years.
What followed over the next six years was attending the US National championships at the Tacoma dome in 1987, and seeing “Stars On Ice” at least twice at the Seattle Center Arena. It was during Stars on Ice that we finally saw Hamilton skate in person. It was worth it. What an amazing skater and showman, his performances unforgettable.
I leave you with this from a publication titled ‘CancerTutor.com.’
“Hamilton is a firm believer in ‘getting up’ after the fall. He pointed to a chapter in his book, The Great Eight, titled ‘Fall Down, Get Up, Smile Like Kristi Yamaguchi.’
‘In one of her [skating] programs, she took a hard fall on a really difficult jump — and she got up, went right back to her program like nothing happened. I realized in that moment there’s a life lesson: I’m gonna fall down. I’m gonna make mistakes. But it’s what’s next — it’s how you get up. The more times you get up, the stronger you are.’”