April 06, 2020

Dorothy Hamill's Life and Experiences as a Skating Legend

Share this pen


Dorothy Hamill was Queen of the Ice in the 70s, but her personal life was a devastating fight against depression.

Figure skater Dorothy Hamill won the hearts of America with her brilliant smile and her dazzling skill on the ice, but her private life was plagued by unhappiness and depression.

Years after her retirement, Hamill revealed the private pain behind the public smile in her 2007 best-selling memoir "A Skating Story: My Life."

Hamill was madly in love with Dean Paul Martin, the handsome, dashing son of Rat Pack crooner Dean Martin

Dorothy Hamill at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC in 2001 | Source: Wikimedia



At the age of 12, Hamill won the novice ladies' title at the U.S. Championships in 1969. At the age of 14, she was competing with the seniors and skating rings around her rivals.

In 1976, still only 19, and a 3-time winner of the U.S. Champion, Hamill took part in her first - and last - Olympic games. Hamill took home the gold from Montreal and decided to quit competing and turn pro.

Dorothy Hamill at the World Figure Skating Championships in 1975 in Colorado Springs | Source: Getty Imges



But the story the public loved, of an 8-year-old girl who dreamed of skating and grew up to become an Olympic champion, was a tissue-thin deception wrapped around a less appealing truth. After Hamill's mother noted her budding talent, she drove her daughter mercilessly. Hamill confessed:

“I always had the sense that nothing was never good enough — striving for perfection." 


Carolyn Hamill was a perfectionist, and obsessed with making her daughter a star - but when Hamill took to the ice at the World Championships in Innsbruck in 1976, she was notably absent. Hamill revealed:

“She’d driven me to every practice, she sat there hours on end in these freezing-cold rinks (...) and this was it for both of us. I was disappointed when she wasn’t there.”


Hamill's father was present, but Carolyn never explained her decision not to attend what was one of the most important moments of her daughter's life. Years later, Hamill would discover that her mother suffered from the same chronic depression that would plague her life.

Dean Paul Martin and Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill circe 1983 | Source: Getty Images



In 1982, at the of 26, Hamill was madly in love with Dean Paul Martin, the handsome, dashing son of Rat Pack crooner Dean Martin. The couple married, but their union was all too brief. Just 20 months after the lavish wedding, Martin asked for a divorce. Hamill stated at the time:

“We are still the best of friends, we still love each other and the divorce will be amicable.”


Hamill admitted that Martin was the love of her life, but agreed to the divorce after they attended couples therapy together. Hamill revealed:

“We were a passionate love affair when we were together, but we both had so much growing up to do, and unfortunately, we had to do it while traveling to different destinations.”



Martin left Hamill in the summer when she couldn't skate her way to oblivion, leave her problems behind. For the first time, Hamill plunged into depression. She said:

“That’s when I really noticed. I was devastated, depressed, sobbing for weeks because I’d lost my best friend as well as my husband."


Hamill's parents had also suffered from the disorder and had dealt with it by self-medicating with alcohol, an example the skater wasn't about to follow. Hamill plunged into a relationship with Dr. Kenneth Forsythe whom she admitted she was attracted to because he looked like Martin, and married him in 1987.

Dorothy Hamill, Husband Ken Forsythe and Daughter Alexandra in 1990 | Source: Getty Images



Shortly after her marriage, Martin, who had joined the Air National Guard as a jet pilot, died in a flying accident. Hamill was devastated. Even though she'd remarried, she still loved her first husband, and never recovered fully from the blow.



In 1988, Forsythe and Hamill welcomed their daughter, Alexandra, but just 8 years after her birth, the marriage fell apart and they divorced. The couple had invested in the Ice Capades in 1993, but the company's subsequent bankruptcy in 1995 added to their troubles.



The divorce from Forsythe was ugly, and for the first time, Hamill confronted her problem with depression head-on. She started therapy and learned to control her disorder through medication. In 2008, Hamill revealed that she was battling breast cancer.

Dorothy Hamill and husband John McColl at the New York premiere of "RISE" in New York in 2011 | Source: Getty Images



In 2009, Hamill married her third husband John McColl. McColl is a business executive who supported Hamill throughout her cancer battle. 

Hamill has revealed that her daughter Alexandra, now 30, also suffers from depression. Unlike her mother, Hamill has never encouraged her daughter to follow her onto the ice.

For the smiling Ice QUeen with her sassy hair cut, the price of fame and success was much too high.