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Sports Then and Now




35 Years Ago: Dorothy Hamill Skates Her Way Into America’s Heart

Posted on February 13, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Dorothy Hamill captured the heart of America at the 1976 Winter Olympics.

The grace and art of ladies figure skating has always been captivating to Americans. From the days of Sonja Henie, to Carol Heiss, Peggy Fleming, Katarina Witt and more recently to Tara Lipinski, Sarah Hughes and Yuna Kim, success on the Olympic stage has meant international fame and recognition for the greatest women on ice.

Perhaps no skater has quite captured the hearts and captivated the interest of both die-hard and casual fans more than a red-cheeked young lady who skated her way into the hearts of many Americans 35 years ago.

It seems difficult to believe that it was indeed 35 years ago, February 13, 1976, when Dorothy Hamill gave the performance of a lifetime to capture the Olympic Gold Medal in Innsbruck.

Not only did Hamil capture the gold medal, but her illuminating smile, beauty and hairstyle led her to be dubbed “America’s Sweetheart.”

Her trademark camel spin that turned into a sit spin became known as the “Hamill camel.” Her bobbed hairstyle created an American fad as teenage girls across the U.S. soon were sporting a similar look.

After winning the Olympic Gold, Hamill won the World Championships and then retired from competition. She spent eight years as a headliner with the Ice Capades and in the ensuing years has been involved in numerous skating ventures.

She also has been twice married and divorced and gone through bankruptcy and fought breast cancer.

Yet to anyone who saw her compete in Innsbruck, she will always be “America’s Sweetheart.”

Below is the freestyle program that won her the gold medal in 1976.


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