Dorothy Hamill

The title of her memoir, A Skating Life (Hyperion, 2007), makes it clear that figure skating is at the very heart of Dorothy Hamill’s identity. That’s as true for her at age 50, when age and osteoarthritis necessitate long warm-ups to keep her limber, as it was at 19, when she won the gold medal in the 1976 Winter Olympics. 

“I still skate five days a week now, up to three hours or sometimes even more,” Hamill says. “Although my body doesn’t do what it used to, the exhilaration is still there – the feeling of speed, the joy of moving to the music.”

Although the Olympic gold medalist still spends a lot of time on the ice, she says that OA in her neck, hips and knees have made her less flexible. “No matter how much I stretch and warm up, my flexibility is less than it was when I was younger,” she says. But her passion for skating hasn’t dimmed. “I always think of exercise as a chore, but skating is a pleasure,” she says. “It just happens to be exercise.”

In her new book, Hamill writes frankly of the bouts of depression that have plagued her throughout her life. She’s especially susceptible in the heat of summer and says that ice-skating was her antidote when she was younger.

“I’m not sure if I found ice-skating or it found me,” she says. “I started skating in the dead of winter on a pond behind my grandmother’s house. In the summer, I’d spend the majority of time in a cold ice rink. Staying cool really did help – as did the fact I was doing what I loved.”

That love has remained constant. In fact, Hamill says she may love to skate even more now than she did when she was competing as an olympian. Back then, she was always anxious about being judged in front of a crowd. Now, she can decide what routine and what music she wants to use on the ice.

Hamill also finds pleasure in walking in her Baltimore neighborhood. “I live in a beautiful historic neighborhood, and everyone walks their dogs. We have lovely gardens that are bursting with tulips in the spring, in every color you can imagine,” she says. “I love to walk there – and my daughter and dog like it, too! My dog always gives me an excuse to go for a walk.”