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1976 Olympic Gold Medalist Dorothy Hamill Withdraws from “Dancing with the Stars”

by Alexandra Stevenson

(27 Mar 2013)  The highly personable and beloved Dorothy Hamill, 56, the last singles skater to win a world title and Olympic gold without presenting a triple jump, revealed on television towards the end of Tuesday evening’s program, that she was withdrawing from “Dancing with the Stars” due to a cyst on her spine.

Obviously holding back tears in a very emotional moment, Hamill, who suffers from arthritis, later elaborated, “It would be completely unfair for me to stay (in the show) and have any of these (rival other contestants) go home. My spine surgeon warned that I would be risking permanent nerve damage if I continued. I wish I could give it my all, but I can’t. It’s been a wonderful ride. I wish I could stay but I can’t do justice to the commitment. I realized this isn’t just a muscle thing. It’s radiating down my leg and my foot and I have no stability in my ankle and I can’t pull my toes back.”

Her demeanor was in a stark contrast to her first performance during the March 18 season premiere, when judges praised her contemporary routine. She received 21 points, which put her in a three-way tie for second place. The series starts off with 12 competitors who are whittled down to a final winner. The current Olympic mens champion, Evan Lysacek, said he’d gained greater recognition from his appearance in the show, in which he finished second, than he had from winning gold in Vancouver.

On Monday & Tuesday’s appearances, it was immediately obvious that Hamill had a major problem. She had been forced to miss several days of rehearsals, a major necessity in this show which pairs celebrities with star coaches from the ballroom world. It takes a major commitment for these coaches to transform their raw amateur partners into someone who is not completely outshone. The disparity in skills is extremely difficult to counter.

Making this week’s appearances even more difficult was that Hamill had to do a jive, for which a core skill is youthful, energetic boisterousness. Despite wearing low-healed or flat shoes, which is consistent with this dance’s image, and having great balance skills honed during a lifetime of skating, Hamill lost her footing and made several mistakes. The three judges awarded her only 15 out of 30 points, which was the lowest score.

Hamill was one of the most popular of the 12 celebrities, and the audience gave her a standing ovation. Hamill said she would miss her fellow dancers, and called her pro dance partner, Tristan MacManus, “a treasure.”

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