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Athletic Stars on Ice Destined for Omaha Stars on Ice

Source: Omaha World-Herald
Date: January 27, 2000
Author: Gerald Wade

Copyright 2000 The Omaha World-Herald Company

Scott Hamilton, who ice skated away from adversity as a youngster into Olympic and world championship seasons, continues to perform in ice arenas throughout the world at 41.

He is a producer of Stars on Ice, a show he created 14 seasons ago, and is one of its 14 performers.

Stars on Ice, on its 1999-2000 American tour to 63 cities in 33 states, comes to Omaha Monday.

Other featured performers are Olympic champions Tara Lupinski, Kristi Yamaguchi, Ilia Kulik and Ekaterina Gordeeva, four-time world champion Kurt Browning, eight-time British champion Steven Cousins, Olympic silver medalists Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov and Olympic bronze medalist Lu Chen of China.

Hamilton was born in Toledo, Ohio, Aug. 28, 1958. He was adopted six weeks later by Dorothy and Earnest Hamilton, professors at Bowling Green University in Ohio.

When Scott was 2 years old, he stopped growing because of a baffling illness that kept his body from absorbing nutrients from his food. It was after the youngster discovered ice skating some years later that the problem vanished and he began to grow again. Doctors attributed his growth to a combination of strenuous athletic effort and the cold atmosphere of the ice itself.

Hamilton remains short in stature today but strong despite cancer which was discovered in June 1997. After surgery and chemotherapy, the cancer was gone by September. He was back on the ice show tour by October.

Hamilton, reached Monday in Kansas City, Mo., talked about skating, ice shows and his life.

Hamilton said Stars on Ice is not the sort of variety show such productions used to be. It is not "The Ed Sullivan Show" on blades. Those productions would have perhaps one Olympic star as the headliner, with chorus lines and comedy acts.

His show, Hamilton said, teams athletes doing what they do best in solo and group numbers in a production that is redesigned and rechoreographed each year.

There is so much ice skating - amateur and professional - on television now that audiences have become too knowledgeable to be captivated by anything less, Hamilton said. "We're trying to give people more of what they expect or maybe even more than they expect."

Hamilton said he enjoys being a showman. He thinks he was an entertainer even when he was going for gold medals.

"When I left competitive skating I really knew I wanted to be an entertainer," he said, "because throughout when I was competing, I enjoyed performing more than I enjoyed competing.

"I liked skating in front of audiences more than I enjoyed winning. Winning was fine. I had a great run and it was terrific, and I could not have done anything more on the competitive level than I did. Four years without being beaten. Four world championships. Olympic gold medals. It was wonderful. I have absolutely no complaints. It was perfect in its way. But I always liked the skating part of it the best. I always enjoyed being out there and just performing.

"So when I turned pro, I wanted to start over. It was brand new. It was a new world. It was completely different than the competitive world. I knew I wanted to build something, and I wanted to be able to do this for a long time. The pressure is trying to anticipate and to put something out there that will bring enough interest that you can build on it and the next year you can build on it again and again and again so that you're not the same face, you're not doing the same numbers. You're not living off your Olympic fame.

"The past gives you the opportunity, but the past does not dictate how successful you are going to be. Obviously the Olympics and the worlds are your credentials, but you can't rest on those. You've got to perform."

When called a survivor in more ways than one, Hamilton says, "I've kind of been tested a few times."

"Well, again, if you don't ask your body to do something, it will never answer," Hamilton continued. "I've asked my body to do a lot of things. You get told things like, 'You'll never be competitive because you're too short. You'll never be athletic because you were sick as a child.'

"Then, going through cancer and going through chemotherapy and everything, it does take its toll on the body. But unless you ask your body to come back, it won't. I've pushed it hard, and it has been painful at times.

"It comes back to what level of comfort you want to live with. If you want to be purely never with pain or with any soreness or anything else, then just sit and watch TV all of the time. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you want something different, then you've got to do what it takes to get to that point. I've been really lucky that my body has responded and has done what I wanted it to do.

"I am the best that I can be. I'd like to be better. There are nights I would like to have back, but I am skating at a level now I am happy with and proud of."

Stars on Ice

7:30 p.m. Monday

Omaha Civic Auditorium

Tickets: $ 55.50 and $ 40.50