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An Olympic champion who transcended her sport, Dorothy Hamill won the junior U.S. Championships in 1969 and went on to win three senior U.S. Championships from 1974-76. Charming the world with her effervescent personality, her giant glasses and wedge hairstyle, Hamill dazzled at the 1976 Winter Olympics, winning gold and becoming one of America's most admired and iconic sports heroes of all time. Credited with inventing her signature spin transition, the "Hamill camel," the skater went on to win the 1976 World Championships before turning pro and powering the Ice Capades through its prime years. Known fondly as "America's Sweetheart" and the hero of millions of young girls, Hamill was a major influence on the skaters who followed in her blade-strokes, and she toplined a series of skating-themed programs, including "The Nutcracker: A Fantasy on Ice" (HBO, 1983) and "Romeo and Juliet on Ice" (CBS, 1983), for which she won a Daytime Emmy. A breast cancer survivor who made a cameo in the hit comedy "Blades of Glory" (2007), Hamill scored national headlines when she decided to compete on "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ). A beloved legend who did much to promote her sport, Dorothy Hamill exhibited enviable grace, charisma and athleticism both on and off the ice.
Born July 26, 1956 in Chicago, IL, Dorothy Stuart Hamill grew up fascinated with ice skating and began lessons as a child. Showing a talent and determination well beyond her years, the young Hamill began practicing at 4:30 a.m. before school, and on one notable occasion began the 10-mile journey to the practice rink on foot when her mother overslept. As her coaches recognized her world-class talent, Hamill's focus increasingly turned to skating, and her family moved several times to accommodate her training needs. Their support proved well founded when the 12-year-old won the junior-level U.S. Championships, and she ascended to the senior level less than three years later. With her signature pixie/wedge haircut, which was modeled after that of Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music" (1965) and oversized glasses, to better aid her with skating compulsory figures, the young Hamill became a national favorite and won the senior-level U.S. Championships in 1974, 1975 and 1976. She benefited greatly from the coaching of the legendary Carlo Fassi, whose larger-than-life personality could prove an enormous boost to a rising skater, although Hamill chafed at some of his more controlling methods and attempted to oust him after he abandoned her shortly before the 1976 Olympics.
After taking second place in 1974 and 1975 at the World Championships, Hamill won the event in 1976 but she achieved superstardom and sports immortality for her victory in that same year's Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Although she would be the last figure skater to win a gold medal without a triple jump in his or her arsenal, Hamill dominated the event that year, placing second in the compulsory figures and winning both the short and the long programs. As the highest-profile American skater of that cycle, the 19-year-old Hamill faced enormous pressure, but credited her family for helping her remain grounded, and even took a "Sound of Music" tour before her final skate, which she claimed was just the thing to help her relax and make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sports fans around the world agreed with Hamill's gold-medal status, with the skater becoming an American heroine and her "America's Sweetheart" personality and style endearing her to millions, jump-starting a fad for Hamill-style haircuts and eyeglasses as well as additional merchandise and countless appearances. Although she turned pro after winning the 1976 World Championships, Hamill left her mark on the sport forever with her sterling reputation as well as her signature move: the "Hamill camel," which was a camel/sit-spin transition.
Enjoying an esteemed legacy as one of the most respected and popular American athletes of all time, Hamill joined the Ice Capades as its main attraction and decades later, in 1993, ended up buying the franchise. She also booked a slew of hosting and starring screen appearances tailored around her considerable charm and athletic ability, including "The Snow Queen: A Skating Ballet" (PBS, 1982), "The Nutcracker: A Fantasy on Ice" (HBO, 1983), "Cinderella. Frozen in Time" (ABC, 1994) and "Romeo and Juliet on Ice" (CBS, 1983), for which she won a Daytime Emmy. She played one of the judges in the Will Ferrell/Jon Heder goofy valentine to the sport, "Blades of Glory" (2007) and made headlines the following year when she announced she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. An advocate for cancer detection and awareness as well as a vegetarian lifestyle, Hamill wrote two autobiographies, 1983's On and Off the Ice and 2007's A Skating Life: My Story. In 2013, fans were delighted when it was announced the beloved icon would be competing on "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ) as Tristan MacManus's partner.
By Jonathan Riggs
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