Stars on Ice tour likely Hamilton's finale
||April 18, 2000|
Copyright 2000 Southam Inc.
At 41, the sun is setting on Scott Hamilton's career, casting a long
shadow behind the diminutive figure skater.
''Yeah,'' he jokes, ''it's on life-support, but that's been pretty
consistent all along.''
In town tonight as part of the ''Stars On Ice'' tour he founded 14
years ago, his has been a career that most athletes only wish for; one
that went to the top and which, for a four-year period, saw him put
together an indomitable string of victories. Beginning after the 1980
Lake Placid Winter Olympic games, and running through Sarajevo in 1984
and the World Championships in Ottawa, Hamilton won 16 consecutive
championships. He claimed the U.S. and World titles four times each and
won Olympic gold once.
The irony is that Hamilton's career has been one that no one, in the
beginning, would have given him a faint hope of achieving. Born and
adopted in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 1958, Hamilton stopped growing when
he was five. Although the cause of his condition remains unknown, he
was misdiagnosed with a variety of illnesses, including Schwachman's
Syndrome, in which the body doesn't absorb food properly, and cystic
fibrosis. For four years, he essentially bounced from diet to diet, city
to city, living in various hospitals throughout the U.S.
At the age of nine, in response to sitting in an arena watching his
sister skate, he took up the sport himself. The change in Hamilton was
marked, as the symptoms of his mysterious illness began to disappear and
his confidence rose. ''Skating was very beneficial on many levels,'' he
recalls. ''It gave me a great level of physical activity and
Fast-forward to his last year of high school, where the approaching
financial burden of both figure skating and college put him in an
either-or predicament. He chose school, and hung up the skates.
Figure skating, however, wasn't through with him. His strong final
year of juniors caught the attention of a number of people, including
one anonymous patroness from Colorado who financed his career.
His mother's death in 1977, far from derailing him, proved to be yet
another seminal incident in Hamilton's life, motivating him anew. ''It
lit a fire, for sure,'' he says. ''Because of everything she endured to
keep me in figure skating, I felt that those sacrifices wouldn't be
honoured unless I worked as hard as I possibly could.''
Hamilton's ''that-which- doesn't-kill-you-only-makes-you-stronger''
attitude came in handy later on; he was diagnosed with testicular cancer
a year-and-a-half ago, and took that hardship with the same sure and
''Life is life,'' he says. ''When I was skating competitively and
pushing myself harder every year and getting through slumps and
injuries, that definitely (gave me) a level of determination to deal
with every challenge in life. And that did help me when I was sick with
''With chemo and surgery, yeah, it was hard. But what choice did I
Hamilton changed the sport of figure skating, using his celebrity to
strip away as much of the tacky glitter as he could. ''(Figure skating)
was getting a little bit too goofy. If you're out there in a suit of
lights, I don't think that helps the sport. And, as an athlete, I wanted
to present myself to everyone, not just to figure skating
Hamilton's coach suggested he try using the same outfit used by
speedskaters, instead of the beaded and feathered ones favoured at the
''I loved it, it was great,'' says Hamilton. ''It was comfortable
and had no resistance at all. It wasn't heavy, and your body got to go
anywhere it wanted.''
After retiring from competitive skating in 1984, Hamilton joined Ice
Capades for a two-year stint. ''Then they were sold,'' he says, ''and
the new owner didn't think that men sold tickets, so he told me to have
a nice life.''
Along with backers from IMG, a sports management and marketing
company, Hamilton began the Stars On Ice tour in 1986, which, with the
growth in the popularity of figure skating, has also flourished. For
Hamilton, however, even that success is not without its costs.
''Figure skating has been growing almost too fast,'' he
concedes. ''Now people are really mercenary with the sport, and not so
much custodial. They need to worry about where the sport is headed,
instead of reaping the benefits of where it is now.
''I'm a little concerned. I think there's a lot of the same product
on the air week after week after week after week. And after a while,
people either take you for granted or get sick of it. You tend to damage
your audience when you give them way too much product; they just choke
And what of Scott Hamilton? Where does his star go when it
disappears beyond the horizon?
''I wouldn't be surprised if this is my last tour of Canada,'' he
says. ''So this is going to be bittersweet.
''I'm not sure how long I'm going to be able to continue this
pace. I'll decide after this year is over.''
Hamilton says he'd like to get involved in cancer research
fund-raising and awareness programs when his skating days are
over. Before that happens, he'd like to do a Broadway show on ice.
''I'd love to do that, but I've got to figure out whether I really
can. If I can't skate up to the level I need to for that type of
performance, especially if it's going to break ground, then I probably
should develop it for someone else.''
As well as Hamilton, tonight's show features Kurt Browning, Tara
Lipinski, Brian Orser, Steve Cousins, Josee Chouinard, and Shae-Lynn
Bourne and Victor Kraatz. It gets under way at the Corel Centre an 7:30
pm. There are still some $ 35 tickets available through Ticketmaster at