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If you like Dorothy Hamill's story, you might also like:
Tenley Albright,
Susan Butcher,
Suzanne Farrell,
Scott Hamilton,
Sally Ride
and Amy Tan

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

Related Links:
USA Olympic Team
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Dorothy Hamill
 
Dorothy Hamill
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Dorothy Hamill Interview

Olympic Hall of Fame

June 17, 2000
Scottsdale. Arizona

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  Dorothy Hamill

Do you remember the first time you put on ice skates?

Dorothy Hamill: I do.


It was on a pond in Old Greenwich, Connecticut and I went with my sister and my neighbor, just the three of us. Well, actually my neighbor's mother drove us. And my -- often my sister and my neighbor -- my neighbor was a year older than me and a year younger than my sister. So she was right in the middle -- Martha. Martha and Marcia, my sister is Marcia. And they were skating backwards and they just completely left me in the dust. I wanted to learn how to skate backwards and they wouldn't help me and they went off and left me on my own. And, of course, I went crying home to my mother's. Up the hill with my skates on my shoulder, "Mom, they wouldn't teach me how to skate backwards." So I think I must have put on this crying thing for a long time, probably a week or so. And my mom finally said, "Okay, would you like to take some skating lessons.?" And I said, "Yes, I'd love to. I want to learn how to skate backwards." And that's how it started. I had some friends that actually skated before school in the mornings and they said. "Take her to Playland, Rye, New York, there's a skating rink there. Sign her up for group lessons." So that's what my mom did. I started once a week in group lessons. After my eight group lessons, I got a scholarship for a free private lesson, which was 15 minutes long. It was more of a marketing tool. It was to hook you in, too. If you wanted to continue you needed private lessons. And I was hooked. I loved it.


Where did you grow up?

Dorothy Hamill: I grew up in Riverside, Connecticut. It's part of the town of Greenwich.

Dorothy Hamill Interview Photo
What was it like growing up in Riverside?

Dorothy Hamill: It was wonderful. It was very much like Norman Rockwell: small town America. We walked to school or rode our bikes, stopped at the penny candy store on the way home from school, skated on the pond. That's when I first started to skate.

What kind of a kid were you?

Dorothy Hamill: Painfully shy around people I didn't know, and a bit of an imp around people I did know. I was a bratty little sister. I was the youngest of three, and I often felt as though I didn't fit in.

What made you feel like you didn't fit in?

Dorothy Hamill: I think my shyness had a lot to do with it. My brother was very gifted as a student, and my sister was very social. She had all the friends and boyfriends, and I just always felt stupid.

Do you think that affected you growing up, being the youngest of the three?

Dorothy Hamill: I think it affected me in a positive way.


The youngest always gets the most attention whether it's good or bad. If you do good things, you get great attention. Also, you're the youngest and the littlest and the cutest. But when you wanted attention you also did some pretty rotten things.


What about your parents?

Dorothy Hamill Interview Photo
Dorothy Hamill: My parents didn't have a lot of money, but we never knew that. They really did the best they could. My father was an engineer and he worked for Pitney Bowes, but my brother was a gifted student; he was off at prep school and Ivy League colleges, my sister was a springboard diver, and I started skating. Between my brother's school and my ice skating lessons, even though my dad did all right, there wasn't a lot of money to go around after all of that. My mother stopped working when she had my brother. She was a full time mom until I started getting heavily into ice skating lessons, and it got to the point where they really needed my mom to earn an income. Then she would teach underprivileged nursery school children. I don't think she earned a lot of money doing that, but I think it was rewarding for her.

Did you like school?


Dorothy Hamill: No. I didn't like school at all, partly because I wasn't very good at it. If I had a teacher that I liked, I did well. Mostly I had teachers that expected me to be brilliant like my brother and I wasn't because it was such a small town. Brother was smart, sister was a little less smart and then I came along and I was the moron. Still am, but at least I found something that I can do.


Before you started ice skating, what did you do with your spare time? Were there any books you remember reading that were important to you?


Dorothy Hamill: I hated to read. My mother could not get me to read. I'm going through the same thing with my daughter now. I love to read now, but I don't remember reading. I loved music. I loved dance. I would sing and dance on the living room floor that was my passion. I never could sleep late. I was not a sleeper. I'd be up at 4:00 o'clock in the morning. And my dad only had Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Guys and Dolls and some Burl Ives thing that he'd done for Eveready Batteries. I wish I could find that record today. So I knew all the words to Guys and Dolls. And Glenn Miller was good for dancing, but he wasn't really good for singing. So, that's kind of what I grew up with.


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This page last revised on Oct 19, 2011 23:30 EDT