July 26 – Happy Birthday, Dorothy Hamill

Posted on July 26, 2015

Born on this date in 1956, Dorothy Hamill started skating at age 8. But it was a nice-and-slow start—just group lessons once a week. The kind of thing my kids did, too.

Soon Hamill started skating more seriously—you know, private lessons and getting up early for 4:30 a.m. ice time! Soon her father was paying about $20,000 per year for skates, lessons, costumes, and travel!

At age 12—just four years after she started skating!—Dorothy Hamill won the novice ladies' title at the U.S. Championships. She began to compete internationally.

And in 1976, at age 19, Dorothy Hamill won the World Championship AND the Olympic Gold Medal!

Here are some interesting things we can learn from Hamill's figure skating career:

  • When she was just 17 years old, Hamill took the ice, ready to skate, and heard boos from the crowd. She was upset, left the ice, and burst into tears—but it turned out that the boos were directed at the judges, because the home crowd in Munich, Germany, was upset with the German skater's scores that had just gone up.

In other words, the boos were nothing to do with Hamill. The crowd settled down, she took the ice again, and she did great, winning a silver medal!

What we can learn: Sometimes, the negativity coming your way isn't REALLY coming your way. Check it out before reacting emotionally.

  • When she was skating at the Olympics, Dorothy saw signs that said, “Which of the West? Dorothy!” She thought at first that the signs were comparing her to a witch, and she felt hurt. But actually, the signs were asking which of the “Western” skaters would beat Christine Errath for the Gold Medal – and their answer, Dorothy, was a sign of support.

    Naturally, Hamill soon realized the intent, especially since the people with the signs were carrying American flags and whooping and applauding for her!

    What we can learn: Spelling matters. Also, don't take offense too easily; sometimes the negativity coming your way is actually positivity!

  • When Hamill was competing, figure skaters had to trace slow-and-careful figures in the ice (hence the term “figure” skaters). Hamill had pretty terrible eyesight, and her coach urged her to get the largest possible frames so she could actually see out of the corners when doing the figures.

    After winning Gold, a trend for glasses with oversized frames started. Also, of course, her bobbed hairstyle was a huge fad. After all, Hamill was “America's sweetheart”!

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