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Dorothy Hamill on What Has Changed About Figure Skating Since She Competed

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

This is what Dorothy Hamill misses in today's version of figure skating

Week of Female Athletes

A lot has changed in figure skating since Dorothy Hamill won the gold medal in the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. For starters, instead of taking it all in firsthand, this time around, she is going to watch the Winter Olympics on TV like the rest of us.

“The youngsters, they’re just so incredibly athletic these days,” she tells SheKnows.

Though Hamill doesn’t have any medal predictions and said she’s not as familiar with the skaters on some of the teams from Asia, she says that the skaters from Russia tend to be tough competition. And unlike previous Winter Olympics, Hamill says there’s no dominant athlete or skater that’s a shoo-in for a medal.

More: Meet the First Female Olympic Ski Jumper in History

For Hamill, the biggest change in the world of figure skating has been the judging system — which used to take into account both technical components of the routine and artistry.

“We used to be scored on a 6.0 as a perfect score,” she explains. “That doesn’t exist anywhere anymore. There now is almost [a mentality of] ‘more is better’ – the more positions, the more turns, the more seemingly complex moves and movements.”

Although Hamill has a great respect for the current generation of figure skaters and their athletic abilities, she is nostalgic for the sport’s artistic aspect.

“For me, I miss a little bit of the beauty and the freedom,” Hamill says. She thinks it can be difficult to appreciate that “cleanliness and beauty” of a skating program when the focus is so firmly on the technical components.

“With the number of rotations they do in the air, that’s really the most difficult physically, but I’m missing a lot of the inherent beauty of what skating is,” she adds. “In my opinion, I think they lost a little bit of the joy and simplicity of skating.”

To clarify, Hamill says she’s not being negative and thinks what skaters do today is amazing and that they focus on the technical parts because that is what is required to earn points in the current system.

“I wish they could figure out a way to be able to combine [technical and artistic components], because you don’t really get the big payoffs with the triples and quads if you don’t have the simple cleanliness,” she adds.

As far as her own skating career, Hamill still skates a bit and says she loves and misses it, but because of a bad back, her performing days are over.

“I’m just trying to do it for fun,” she says. For now, she’s trying to keep moving primarily through other activities, like walking her dog, skiing and taking tennis lessons.

“For me, trying to stay active is the most important thing, since skating — which was my job — isn’t really my job anymore,” Hamill says. Instead, she tries to fit in exercise whenever she can, like parking in the spot farthest away from a store, taking the stairs instead of an elevator and doing housework. She also tries to eat balanced meals whenever possible and get plenty of sleep.

Hamill has recently partnered with Nature’s Bounty vitamins and encourages everyone — especially people around her age (she’s 61) — to pay attention to their calcium intake to support healthy bones. She says that melatonin has also been helpful for her, especially when she’s dealing with jet lag after international travel.

More: Does Melatonin Really Help You Sleep?

“I would love to say [...] how important I know it is as we all get older to be able to stay and remain and keep healthy without having a competitive, serious athletic life anymore,” she adds. “I’m just trying to be like anyone else and take care of myself.”

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