Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rachel Flatt brings back memories of Dorothy Hamill

I read this morning about Rachel Flatt's triumphant return to her Colorado Springs high school after winning the Ladies US Figure Skating Championship free program, and a berth in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver on the US Team. I bet some of the kids at Cheyenne Mountain high school didn't know much about Rachel before last weekend - they do now.

This brought back memories of when I was a 16 year old junior at John F Kennedy High School in southwest Denver in 1973. I saw an article in our school newspaper, the Statesman, about one of my classmates, Dorothy Hamill, who was about to compete in the US Figure Skating championships. I didn't know who she was - Dorothy was mostly unknown to the other students at Kennedy. I remember going to study hall and hearing during roll call the name "Dorothy Hamill" being called out by the teacher. "Oh yeah, that's the skater" I thought at the time.

Dorothy Hamill was not to remain anonymous very long. I remember telling my parents that a girl from Kennedy was going to be in the US Figure Skating championships. We watched her performance on ABC's Wide World of Sports that weekend as Dorothy nervously skated out in long pigtails (this was before her famous 1976 Olympics hairstyle). She finished behind Janet Lynn for the title and nervously rolled her eyes as she was interviewed by ABC commentator Dick Button upon leaving the ice.

After that weekend Dorothy was the new love interest of many teenage boys at Kennedy. My friend Pete was a hockey goalie at the same rink she practiced at, and told my friends and I stories of conversations he had with Dorothy. "You talked to her??!!! What did she say??" we would ask. Of course as a very shy, awkward math geek I had as much chance of a date with Dorothy as the Detroit Lions winning this year's Super Bowl. My friend Greg, much more athletic and popular than I, thought he had better odds. He waited patiently after one of Dorothy's local skating exhibitions to get her autograph. Greg, too, really didn't have much chance either of a Dorothy date (maybe as much chance as the Raiders winning the Super Bowl)

Dorothy Hamill did not stay at my high school for long. After that junior year she transferred to a private school as her fame grew. Over the years I would often tell friends "I went to high school with Dorothy Hamill!" as did many of my high school buds, as if we REALLY knew her (we didn't)

Dorothy went on to become one of the most famous figure skaters in US history. She also had her share of heartbreaks, going through 2 very public divorces and a battle with breast cancer. Sometimes I wonder if it was all worth it to her, or if she wishes she were that anonymous 11th grader again back at John F Kennedy High School.

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