Relaxed Hamill gives gold medal performance
Feb. 13, 1976 - Before Dorothy Hamill took to the ice for her freestyle routine at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, she started crying after seeing a sign in the stands that said, "Which of the West? Dorothy!"
At first, she thought detractors made the sign and took it as a message that she was a witch. In this Cold War era, what the sign-makers were cleverly asking is which Western skater - Hamill or Diane de Leeuw of the Netherlands - was going to defeat East Germany's Christina Errath for the gold medal. Then they answered by saying Dorothy.
Once Hamill realized the sign was held by her friends, who wanted to shake her out of her usual pre-competition jitters, the three-time U.S. champion felt better. A relaxed Hamill gave a competent performance, skating to music from Errol Flynn movies. She won the gold medal by a unanimous decision of the nine judges.
The crowd showered her with so many flowers that three girls helped her gather them on the ice. Lord Killian, president of the International Olympic Committee, put the gold medal around her neck.
At the awards ceremony, the 19-year-old Hamill cried again. "I couldn't help it," she said. "It wasn't because I had finally won the medal. It was seeing the American flag go up and hearing the band play 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"
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