Dorothy Hamill

Dorothy Hamill
"If I'm on skates, I feel at home no matter what I'm doing. If they wanted me to sing and dance I think I could do it just because I was on skates. When I'm not on skates, though, I feel very strange."
- Dorothy Hamill, 1977

Induction Category:

Born: 1956

Inducted: 2007

Town: Greenwich

Shortly after Dorothy Hamill was born in Chicago in July 1956, her family relocated to Greenwich, Conn.  It was here, at the age of 8, this American sweetheart would receive her first pair of ice skates as a Christmas gift and begin her journey toward becoming a figure skating champion and household name.  With new skates in tow, Hamill set out on a nearby pond behind her grandparents’ house and, fueled by a desire to learn how to skate backwards, instantly urged her parents to sign her up for private skating lessons.

Just one year later, at 9 years of age, Hamill was ready to compete. At her first competition, the Wollman Open in New York City, Hamill came in second place, beating more than 100 other girls. It was clear that she had a natural talent, and that this talent should be cultivated. By the time she was 15, nearly all of Hamill’s time would be filled with skating. By 1975, she had acquired a strong winning record, but it was 1976 that became the golden year for the champion. Not only did Hamill win the U.S. National Championship and World Championship, the skater, whose charisma on the ice had become unmistakable, also took home the gold medal from the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. She won much recognition for her signature move, the "Hamill Camel," a camel spin into a sit spin.

The Olympic win catapulted Hamill to celebrity status. Clairol, the ABC network, and the Ice Capades all came knocking on Hamill’s door with contracts, making the young skater the first athlete to earn more than $2 million in each of her first two years as a professional. Her wedge hairstyle quickly became a fad among young ladies, and in 1977 a Dorothy Hamill doll premiered. Loved as a performer, Hamill’s Ice Capades agreement enabled her to skate as a headliner from 1977-1984. In 1983, Hamill won an Emmy for her performance in the Ice Capades production of Romeo and Juliet on Ice. By 1993, the Ice Capades was in financial distress, and Hamill purchased the company, outwardly demonstrating her firm belief in the transformative, uplifting and positive influences figure skating can have on the public. In 1991, she was inducted to into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000.

Hamill continues to captivate America’s hearts by staying active in philanthropic affairs. It is clear that she understands the joy that sports can bring to a child’s life. In partnership with the March of Dimes, she was afforded the opportunity to teach blind children to skate. She has also become heavily involved with Figure Skating in Harlem, an organization that promotes self-confidence, physical well-being and academic achievement among inner-city girls.

In January of 2008, Hamill told America that she was battling breast cancer, a disease she had seen her mother fight. Now a survivor, Hamill continues to open up about her experience with the disease and speaks out for breast cancer awareness. She has also shared publicly about her struggles with depression in an effort to raise awareness and break the social stigma still attached to mental illness. Her two autobiographies, Dorothy Hamill: On and Off the Ice (1983) and A Skating Life: My Story (2007), describe her life and career. She continues to skate and to mentor young skaters. Through it all, Hamill has never lost hope, and a mere mention of her name continues to inspire countless fans.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice