Dorothy Hamill, who became America’s sweetheart forever after winning the Olympic gold medal in ladies’ figure skating in 1976, is facing a new challenge. She’s competing on the new season of “Dancing with the Stars,” following in the footsteps of fellow Olympic skating champs Kristi Yamaguchi, who won the show in Season 6, and Evan Lysacek, who finished second on Season 10.
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Although her skating artistry should make her a favorite on “DWTS,” at age 56, Dorothy will be the oldest competitor of Season 16. The beloved sports icon is also a breast cancer survivor. How will Dorothy do on the grueling dance show? As xfinityTV’s exclusive interview shows, Dorothy is relying on her ageless determination and her partner, Tristan MacManus, to help her excel in the ballroom, just as she has on the ice rink.
Did Evan and Kristi encourage you to do “DWTS”?
Way back when, they said, “you have to do it,” and, of course, I would have loved to, but one has to be invited to do the show, so I sort of figured it would never happen. But now that I know and I’m allowed to talk to them, I’m going to call them and get whatever tips I can so that I can make it as painless as possible for Tristan.
What else inspired you to put on the dance shoes?
I’ve always been a fan of the show. I think it’s terrific to watch people outside of their comfort zone come in and learn a new skill, especially later in life. I just wanted to learn how to dance for a long time.
Obviously, you’ve already grasped choreography as a skater. What will your weaknesses be in the “DWTS” competition?
I have a really bad memory and I’m a very slow learner, so as far as the choreography goes, I bring all that from my skating. I’m really slow, so that’s why I’ve always been a solo skater because if I mess up, nobody knows.
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And your strengths?
I like to work hard, but I don’t know if I can keep up with the pace. Hopefully I’ll be able to. That doesn’t mean I’ll be any good, but I’ll try.
Are you concerned about competing against younger stars?
I’m worried I’m going to get a reality check, because I think I’m still 30! We’ll give it our best shot.
What about injuries? Even professional athletes have been injured on this show!
Yes. I know that’s part of anything physical, there’s always going to be the risk of something. A freak thing could happen. I am used to falling, so I’ve got lots of bumps and bruises and war wounds and battle scars. I’m okay with that. I’ll be using different muscles. I know there’s perhaps the tendency to do something too quickly, but I’m pretty good at listening to my body.
A lot of people experience body changes on the show, but of course you’re skinny already—
Trust me, I’m not skinny!
Do you look forward to toning up in a new way?
Always! Always! Yes. I’m always liking to do that.
Will you be skating while “DWTS” is going on?
I have four more shows on the [“Stars on Ice”] tour. My tour will be finished before this first episode airs, so we’re getting enough rehearsal before we have to dance for the judges. It will be a little complicated but it will be good. We’re going to work around it.
And you have a grown daughter [Alexandra, 24, from her second marriage to Dr. Kenneth Forsythe, whom she divorced in 1995]. What does she think of you doing “DWTS”?
I had to tell her [before the official cast announcement], you can’t tell anyone! And she’s like, “cool, mom!” I hope she’ll [cheer me on in the “DWTS” audience]. She has a job but I’m sure her boss will let her come. It’s depending on how far I get, but I know she’d love to.
The new season of “DWTS” premieres Monday, March 18 at 8/7c on ABC.