Scott Hamilton could write a book about the elevator at the Ritz-Carlton downtown.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in that elevator and an iconhas stepped into the elevator with me,” says the 1984 Olympic figure skating champion.
Hamilton spends a fair amount of time here, whether he’s in town for a checkup at the Cleveland Clinic — where he was treated for testicular cancer and a benign brain tumor — or to host his annual Evening with Scott Hamilton and Friends benefit for the Taussig Cancer Institute.
And while staying at the Ritz-Carlton during those visits, he’s met everyone from the Blind Boys of Alabama to Aerosmith. Then there was the time he ran into former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.
“I totally made a fool of myself,” Hamilton confesses. “I’m not even going to go into it. But let’s just say that we’ve all had those times when the words come out and you just want to suck them back into your mouth.”
Hamilton will no doubt be more composed as an analyst for NBC’s coverage of the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championship at Quicken Loans Arena Jan. 18 through 25.
The 50-year-old father of two also has a second book coming out Jan. 6,The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason to Be Miserable), and a stint on the next installment of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice.
How has the sport of figure skating changed since you were competing?
The new [accumulative-point] scoring system — whoever collects the most points wins. In my day, you spent the first four years learning the ropes at the senior level — you were supposed to wait your turn [to win]. Not any more. The new scoring system actually favors the younger skaters. They’ve come up in this system. It’s pretty interesting to watch how they’re presenting their skating, using the system to build the most points possible.
Though you’re retired from professional skating, do you still hit the ice?
I did at the beginning of this year. I skated for almost three months solid, and then I ripped a groin [muscle] up pretty bad. If you don’t use it, you lose it. And I didn’t use it for a long time. With all my health issues, I really couldn’t.
How are you feeling?
Actually, I’m doing really well. A lot of it is choice — Ichoose to be good, so I’m fine. I’m on hormone replacement, a lot of that stuff, for life.
Celebrity Apprentice doesn’t seem like something mild-mannered you would do.
You’re right, it was a stretch. But I just thought, It’s going to be airing around the time the book comes out, and it would be nice to be out there beyond just doing figure skating broadcasting.And I’ve always liked Donald Trump and his family. I’ve known him for a long time.
Your new book is a guide to help others, as you put it, “find optimism and joy.” Were you born optimistic, or did you develop the trait?
I think it was developed. A lot of times, when people are faced with big challenges, the [problems] are looked upon as a curse. Especially with my cancer, I felt that way for many, many years. But through the cancer and recovery, I was able to look at things and say, “That was an extraordinary blessing.” What you find going through different challenges is that life is amazing. If it wasn’t challenging, if it wasn’t threatened at times, how worthwhile would it be?