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If you like Scott Hamilton's story, you might also like:
Tenley Albright,
John Gearhart,
Dorothy Hamill
and Willie Mays

Scott Hamilton also appears in the video:
Perseverance and the American Dream

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Scott Hamilton in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Amazing Olympic Games

Related Links:
USA Olympic Team
Scott Hamilton Cares Initiative
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  Scott Hamilton

Do you think that your childhood experience of illness shaped you, or influenced your later life?

Scott Hamilton: Adversity, and perseverance and all these things can shape you. They can give you a value and a self-esteem that is priceless. Everything that I've ever been able to accomplish in skating and in life has come out of adversity and perseverance.


The judge that told me I was too short to compete on the international level. Well, I'll prove her wrong, and I did. Another judge who just didn't really like me that much and was very powerful, always throwing up roadblocks, trying to get me to fail. "No, you can't. If you do this jump in competition, we're going to have to mark you down." So I changed the jump and I'd land a tougher jump to spite her and I'd win the competition.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


Scott Hamilton Interview Photo
All the things that were meant to kind of pull me down made me better, just out of drive, and intensity and perseverance. Having to get through four years of going undefeated, because I didn't want to show weakness going to the Olympics. You have to get through a lot of competitions and you've got to get by a lot of great talented skaters, and that was very tough.

Or the fact that skating is a woman's sport. When I came into the professional ranks after the Olympics, I was the leading guy coming out of the Olympics, I was the only Olympic gold medalist from the United States, and you'd think there would be opportunities. Peggy Fleming came out and she had television specials, and commercials, and big ice shows. Dorothy Hamill? Television specials, commercials, big ice shows. I came out and it was like, "We don't know what to do with you. We'll make it up as we go along." There were no television specials, no commercials.

Male figure skating is different than female figure skating; we're not America's sweetheart. Nancy Kerrigan comes out of the Olympics as a silver medalist, she gets a television special. All the things that would have been there if I were a woman, weren't there. So I had to create a whole new identity for a professional career. There was no groundwork. Dorothy could build off what Peggy did. And Peggy was a huge superstar, as Dorothy is. But for men it didn't exist.


I went for two years with Ice Capades, and they didn't know how to produce me or anything else. I ended up kind of having to produce myself because they never had to do that before. And then they called me in and they said, "We've just been sold and the gentleman who bought the Ice Capades feels that only a woman will sell tickets and he wishes you well." Basically saying, time for you to find a job somewhere else. And so, once again, the adversity, I had to find a way of reinventing something and I created a show with the help of International Management Group that became, now 10 years later, Stars on Ice. And it's huge, and it's changed figure skating, as the professional ranks and the integrity that I brought -- I don't like bragging, I don't mean to-- to the professional side of the sport like it'd never been done before.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance


People took it seriously before, but because of scheduling, and because of the physical demands, it's really hard to keep your skating up to that Olympic level. Well, from '84 on people were starting to keep their skating up to the Olympic level. And Brian Boitano -- a brilliant athletic skater -- I helped him. He was able to go and start his own tour and to be accepted as a great professional athlete, where it didn't exist before. We've both been working to build this sport into something brand new, where men have some place to go, where they have credibility. And now it's not just be a female thing.

Scott Hamilton Interview Photo
And after 13 seasons of being professional, I've been given a prime time, network television special. I pitched it every year for 12 years and there was just no interest. Through proving yourself over a long period of time people get more comfortable with you. It's not so much that your ego needs this, it's just that when opportunities exist for others, you have to find a way of finessing the system and making it happen for you.

It's always been just getting past the adversity. Finding a challenge, meeting it, finessing, finagling, however you get around it, get around it. But always keep looking ahead. Don't let somebody grab hold of the back of your shirt and hold you back. Just keep going, keep going. Without that kind of adversity I'd be much less of a performer and I probably wouldn't have the career that I have now. I love for people to throw up roadblocks. It gives me direction and it gives me something to challenge and to beat.

When you skate in front of judges, you're opening yourself up to criticism, how do you deal with it?

Scott Hamilton: When you're an amateur, or an "eligible competitor," you take criticism very well. You use it to build your next year's routines. You use it to eliminate any weaknesses the judges may see in you, and it's a very positive thing. Criticism is great. When you turn professional, you become an entertainer, and like every other entertainer, you don't want to get a bad review. So if somebody doesn't like a program, you take it more personally. It's harder to build off of it, because your goals are different as a professional skater than they are as an amateur or an Olympic competitor.

So as an amateur Olympic competitor I loved criticism, because it made me better. But now as a professional I don't really know how to channel it or where to take it, so I don't take it quite as well. I'm more sensitive as a professional. It's like any movie actor that reads how bad they were in a movie. They did the best they could. It wasn't like they were trying to bomb. So I don't take the criticism quite as well now as I did then, because I don't have any place to put it.

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This page last revised on Mar 25, 2009 11:40 EST
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