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Published: Sunday, 2/22/2009

Medalist's return warms fans' hearts - and Hamilton's

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Scott Hamilton, at Bowling Green State University's Winterfest, marks the 25th anniversary of his Olympic gold victory. Scott Hamilton, at Bowling Green State University's Winterfest, marks the 25th anniversary of his Olympic gold victory.
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BOWLING GREEN - Favorite son Scott Hamilton arrived here Saturday for the celebration commemorating the 25th anniversary of his Olympic gold medal win in Sarajevo and remarked on what a pleasure it was to return to his hometown for a happy occasion.

In the past, visits had been mostly for funerals, he said during a press conference in the Bowling Green State University Student Union.

Nashville is his adopted home, he said, but Bowling Green, where he got his start in figure skating, will always be his hometown.

"It's great to be able to come here. Today's a little bit busy. I'm going to show them everything tomorrow," he said, referring to his family. He added that he wanted his 5-year-old son, Aidan, "to know where his dad came from."

He brought his wife, Tracie, their two children, and in-laws with him for the Bowling Green visit. Their borrowed private jet was unable to land in Bowling Green because of the snowy weather and was diverted to Toledo Express Airport.

Mr. Hamilton, 50, was modest in recounting his spectacular rise to becoming the most recognized male figure-skating star in the world.

He fairly gushed with enthusiasm and admiration when asked about Alissa Czisny, another Bowling Green native and skating star, who recently won the

U.S. women's championship in Cleveland. "I love her. She's the best skater to come out of Bowling Green, to be sure," he said. "It's a very proud moment for me to see her come out of Bowling Green, Ohio."

Mr. Hamilton will appear on The Celebrity Apprentice, which returns to NBC March 1. "I've met Donald Trump on several occasions and like him a lot," he said, but expressed doubt about how well he fits in with some of the other participants, such as Dennis Rodman, the heavily tattooed NBA star, or raunchy comedian Andrew Dice Clay.

No matter. The experience was worthwhile, he said. "How often can you put yourself in a position in pop culture to be fired by Donald Trump?"

He said he also enjoyed playing himself as a commentator in the skating comedy Blades of Glory, which starred Will Ferrell, but described the film's depiction of skating as "just ludicrous."

Mr. Hamilton won more than 70 titles and awards during his skating career. He was the first figure skater to be inducted into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame, putting him in the company of Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, the Rolling Stones, and Frank Sinatra.

He said he was broke after he won his Olympic gold. From 1986 to 2001, he performed in his own Scott Hamilton's America Tour with symphony orchestras, and spent 15 national touring seasons in Stars on Ice, which he co-created and co-produced.

Building Stars on Ice was a lot of hard work, he said. The show broke even in its fourth year, and by the mid-1990s, as it attracted more stars, the business became "unbelievable." He retired from the tour in 2001 but has returned as a special guest star and continues as the creative force behind each season's shows.

Bowling Green is celebrating Mr. Hamilton's return and Olympic anniversary with a three-day Winterfest.

Last night's "An Evening with Scott Hamilton" in BGSU's Lenhart Grand Ballroom was a fund-raiser for the university's Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, to which Mr. Hamilton donated $1.5 million in 2004. The event was off-limits to news media.

Downtown's Main Street was decorated with ice sculptures, six of which were vandalized, Bowling Green police said. Five people were charged with criminal damaging.

In the former Cla-Zel theater, which has been converted to a bar, was perhaps Mr. Hamilton's biggest fan. He was Scott Wenner, 10, a member of the Bowling Green Skating Club. The Waterville boy wasn't named for Scott Hamilton, but he described the famous skater as his role model.

Last summer, he won the skating club's Scott Hamilton Award for an essay he wrote on how to design an ice arena and why he liked skating. He was in the Cla-Zel for a silent auction that raised funds for his club.

"Scott Hamilton is the best," Scott Wenner said.

Contact Carl Ryan at

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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