Fame & Fortune: Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton Skating champion Scott Hamilton has surpassed what his parents, doctors, coaches and even himself, ever thought possible. Born in 1958 in Toledo, Ohio, he was adopted by a couple from Bowling Green, also in Ohio, at 6 weeks old. At 2 years of age, he suddenly stopped growing and doctors were unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis. After his illness was mistaken as cystic fibrosis, his parents sent him to Boston's Children's Hospital where his ailment began to correct itself with a special diet and moderate exercise, including ice skating.

Now possibly the most recognized male figure skating star in the world, Hamilton took third place in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1980 and won a place on the U.S. Olympic team. He finished fifth at the Olympics in Lake Placid that same year.

Over the next four years, he won national and world skating events, ultimately capturing the gold medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, in what is now the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After turning professional, he appeared in the Ice Capades and has been a frequent skating and Olympic commentator on network television. Earlier this year, Hamilton appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" but ultimately got "fired" from the competition by Donald Trump.

Over his life, Hamilton has faced adversity of a different kind. He battled testicular cancer in 1997, and more recently in 2004, he was treated for a benign brain tumor.

This year, the former Olympic champion released his book, "The Great Eight," in which he shares his many challenges and successes. In this interview with Bankrate, Hamilton discusses the challenges he's faced, as well as his love of skating, his career, and his life with wife Tracey and sons Aidan, 5, and Maxx, 1.

Bankrate: In 1981, you won the World Figure Skating Championships. Since then, you've seen peaks and valleys,  professionally and personally. Take me on that journey, naming three big turning points in your life that have helped you get to where you are today.

Scott Hamilton: A lot of them came from unfortunate circumstances. One of the biggest turning points was when I had a childhood illness and started skating. For years, I was in and out of hospitals, and they couldn't diagnose what was going on. They finally gave up until Dr. Harry Shwachman told my mom he couldn't figure out what was going on and that I should just go home and live a normal life. So I started skating and started getting better.

The next biggest event was the death of my mother. That was one of those horrific realizations that you should be living your life differently. She sacrificed everything to keep me in skating because she knew that gave me my health. She sacrificed many of her own comforts. She had no luxuries in her life because of the cost of skating. When she passed away, I realized that I was really underachieving, and I wasn't honoring her commitment to me to keep me in skating and to give me life. So I decided on the morning she passed away that I needed to do better. From then on, skating took on a whole different role in my life and I actually started to achieve.

The latest one came after my testicular cancer and getting through that (and) the brain tumor in 2004. I had a wife and a young son and had waited a long time for that, then only to be diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was only 14 months old.


Bankrate: You just announced your return to the ice last month?

Scott Hamilton: Yes, actually Oprah did it (laughs). When you make a commitment to do something, that's one thing; when it's made public, it's another thing. They were doing a piece on "Montel Williams" and his health problems, and they wanted to talk to familiar people who had their own health issues, so they talked to Magic Johnson, Fran Drescher and me. As part of my interview, I said every time my health has been challenged, every time my life has been challenged, skating has gotten me through it. So I said, "OK, let's get back on the ice."

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