Catching Up With ... Dorothy Hamill
She has an island fantasy camp to run this week, a fall wedding -- her own -- to plan, an Olympic hopeful to mentor and a televised holiday show to prep for.
Yet Dorothy Hamill, the figure skater crowned "America's Sweetheart" after her gold medal performance at the 1976 Winter Olympics, still finds time to stop for a phone call to her summer home on Nantucket to catch up.
Although she wasn't a summer camper growing up, Hamill started to get the bug to run a skating camp one year when she was packing her reluctant daughter off to an adventure.
David Hobby/2007 Baltimore Sun file photo
"Alex said, 'I don't want to go to camp' and I'm thinking, 'Well I do,'" says Hamill, laughing. "Baltimore has a great adult skating community and I thought, 'This would be a gas to put together for adults who still want to learn and challenge themselves and not drop off the face of the earth just because they're getting older.'"
She recruited longtime collaborators Nathan Birch and Tim Murphy and added Peter Carruthers, the 1984 Olympic silver medalist in pairs with sister Kitty, and Randy Gardner, who with partner Tai Babilonia won a world title and five national championships.
"We'll be teaching and coaching and sharing some of the great experiences we've had," Hamill says of her camp, which costs $4,800 for five days, including an on-site personal trainer, accommodations and meals. "We're going to eat well and share stories."
This is the second year Hamill has escaped the heat of Baltimore summers for the cool Atlantic breezes of Nantucket, 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod.
Love brought her to this island, with its quaint harbor and stately homes once owned by whaling captains.
Her fiance, John MacColl, has family here. His little two-story cottage with the weathered shingles and white trim seemed a perfect place for Hamill to continue her recovery from breast cancer while the two decided if they could make separate lives one.
"It didn't even occur to me that Nantucket had a skating rink," says Hamill, laughing. "But its about a five-minute walk from the house. The rink is beautiful and the quality of the ice is great."
Nantucket Ice Community Rink will serve as base camp for the 16 campers.
"It's kind of more than I expected for the first year," she says of the turnout. "We want to make sure they get a lot of one-on-one instruction and a lot of attention."
Hamill also has agreed to mentor Rachael Flatt, the 2008 junior world champion and 2008 and 2009 national silver medalist from Colorado Springs. The two worked together this summer at the rink in Lake Placid, N.Y., home of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.
"It's hard to do that long distance, but I'm honored to be asked," she says. "I'll just be there to listen and make suggestions."
In her spare time, Hamill is planning her "very small" wedding in November in Baltimore. MacColl, a lawyer who lives in Cockeysville, is executive vice president and chief risk officer for FTI Consulting based in Baltimore. He is a member of the board of directors for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and president of Caves Valley Golf Club.
"I thought I might," says Hamill of finding love again. "But if it didn't I was OK. I had stuff to keep me busy. I've been married twice. I've been divorced twice. My first wedding was a royal wedding. My second one was here and done. It's my day again."
One new experience for Hamill, 53: "John has three children, so I'll be a grandmother by marriage."
Before she leaves Nantucket to return to Baltimore, Hamill and Murphy will work on the choreography for “Kaleidoscope on Ice” – a holiday TV special.
The show will feature a collaboration between elite figure skaters and Grammy Award-winning performers to address issues surrounding women and cancer. Scott Hamilton, 1980 Olympic gold medalist and cancer survivor, will join Hamill, who will skate to the music of fellow cancer survivor Olivia Newton-John and music producer David Foster. Also performing will be Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan, former national champion Johnny Weir and Flatt.
The live event and taping will take place at the Verizon Center in Washington at 7 p.m., on Nov. 16. The 90-minute show will be broadcast on the Fox network on Thanksgiving Day at 4 p.m., following the football game. Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling (202) 397-SEAT or visiting www.verizoncenter.com.
"Physically, I'm hurting," says Hamill. "After cancer treatments I took a year off. The radiation and medication make me ache. I've been skating every day this summer but it's been slow coming back. I'm happy doing the show, but not happy with the level I'm able to perform. But I'm excited to be performing again."
Bottom photo: Associated Press/1976