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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 Interview (page: 7 / 9)

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  Scott Hamilton

Why do you think you got the gold while others did not?

Scott Hamilton: In many cases, I see competitors who don't really understand the entire process and the whole big picture. They individualize everything. It's their own direction in skating, it's the way they want to do it, the music they like, the costume or the outfit they want to wear. It's not what will be accepted and appreciated by a panel of judges.

What do I need to do to win? That's my whole focus. What do I need to do to get the biggest mark? I competed in front of East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia, China, Japan, Canada, United States. Maybe West Germany, maybe not. I only liked to have one German judge, because one of my biggest competitors was German and he'd get both the East German and the West German judge, so I always liked to have only one German judge -- and a British judge.

Scott Hamilton Interview Photo
You'd get a split panel, which would end up being five eastern communist countries, against four western. So who are you going to cater to? The five, because they're the majority and you're going to come up with music and interpretation that will be easily accepted and marked by them. You're not going to go in front of China, Czechoslovakia and East Germany skating to Bon Jovi, or some hard rock and roll, or something that they're not exposed to because their culture is different.

You have to cater to the people that are determining your fate and a lot of skaters don't do that. They don't look past themselves. They know what their strengths are and they focus on their strengths, they don't focus on their weaknesses. That's one thing that we always did. We said, "Okay, that's fine, that's going to be okay, let's work on what's really bad. Let's try to create something that nobody else has and let's eliminate all the weaknesses."

What do I need to do to win? Well, I need to win the figures. I'm not a very good compulsory figure skater, it's a lot of figure eights. Well, guess what?, I have to be. So let's spend five hours a day doing figures. On a piece of ice that's fresh, brand new, no lines, no anything, you have to draw the perfect size circles. Both circles have to be the same size, they have to be lined up, the centers have to be neat, everything has to be perfect. That takes time. I had to really apply myself, knowing that if I won the compulsory figures it was mine. It was a strategy. A lot of skaters don't use strategy and don't like to build on their weaknesses, because it's not fun to do that.

They also don't look at who they're skating for and the judges that are going to be determining their fate. They say, "Well, this is me and this is what I like. I'm a rock 'n roll kind of guy, so it's going to be a rock 'n roll kind of thing." And then they get some judges, thinking "What the heck is that?" And they don't win. You got to look at the panel, and you've got to make sure that you connect, present something they can easily digest, and make their job of judging easy. They'll love you if you give them something they can give a good mark to.

What advice would you give to young people just starting out in their careers?

Scott Hamilton: It always feels better when you make a short-term goal, and you succeed. If you get into business and say you want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in two years, you're probably not going to get there, unless you have really explicit Polaroids or something.


If you have a specific lofty goal, it's going to take time to get there. But you're going to have to hit a lot of short-term goals on the way. And so, anything I tell young people, especially skaters is, "Worry about Sunday. Worry about next month. Don't worry about five years from now. Don't get into skating your first day thinking you're going to win an Olympic gold medal, because the odds are you're going to be heartbroken."


I you need goals to go after, go after short-term achievable goals. If you really want to push yourself, shorten the time limit on that goal and it will make you more intense and it will make you work harder. Short-term goals, lots of them, hundreds of short-term goals. It will feed your ego, it will feed your self-esteem, and you'll be able to feel good about yourself every day.

What do you know now about achievement that you did not know when you were younger?

Scott Hamilton: Doug Wilson, who is the director of figure skating coverage for ABC Sports, told me when I got off the ice, "Your life has just changed forever. It will never be the same." Doug and I have been friends for years, and I said, "I really don't understand what you're saying, but thanks, I guess." I didn't really get it.


What I didn't know is how many people you touch when you achieve a certain level of success in anything. You touch thousands and millions of people and you affect them. And you don't maybe know them, but they know you. And what I had no idea was that all those hours I was spending tracing compulsory figures and pushing myself through a long program in altitude, all that work would touch so many people and that my life would never be that again. When you walk down the street and people know who you are. That you've touched people and inspired them, maybe somebody that may be struggling with something. You connect with them somehow. It makes their life a little bit better. I had no idea that any of this was possible. Or that, anything I would ever do would affect anybody. And that's the one thing I've learned through the whole process of winning competitions, and going to the Olympics, and being a pro and really trying to direct the sport in new ways and creating new opportunities, is that when you touch a lot of people, it's like that George Bailey thing from It's A Wonderful Life. You touch people, and you change things and you affect them.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream


I really never understood that when I was training and working towards these goals, that wasn't just about me, it was about a lot of other people. And that turns into a responsibility of its own later on, but only after you understand and get more comfortable with it.

What do you consider your greatest moment?

Scott Hamilton Interview Photo
Scott Hamilton: There have been so many. It's easier to look back on the whole thing, than it is to pick one moment. There are a lot of the moments that make up the whole thing. I think of carrying the flag at the medal ceremony in Sarajevo. I think of carrying the flag in the opening ceremonies in Lake Placid. I mean, I was the third guy out of three that were sent to the Olympics. Unheard of, nobody really knew who I was or anything else, and I'm elected by all the athletes to carry the flag in the opening ceremonies. That was a major moment. To lead the Olympic team in, to dream about being on an Olympic team and then making it, and then having the athletes give you the honor of carrying the flag in. It was a huge thrill.

My life in skating has been a fantasy. It's been an adventure, and it's been challenging, and it's been rewarding and I look back on it, and it easy to delete the negatives. But as work, from the time I first made the Olympic team up till now, it's been a challenge. I look at that as a moment in time that's very special. I'm grateful for everything every single day. Count your blessings, I do.

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