February 13: A Greenwich Girl with Great Hair Ices Olympic Gold


Today in 1976, a 19-year-old ice skater born in Greenwich captivated audiences worldwide with her masterful, gold-medal-winning performance at the Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Her near perfect routine would catapult her to international stardom and, along with a unique hair style that created a national craze, it would also set Dorothy Hamill on a path to becoming one of the most beloved U.S. athletes of all time.

The soon-to-be world famous skating superstar fell in love with skating as a child growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut. There, after receiving her first pair of skates at the age of eight, she ventured out onto the ice on a frozen pond behind her grandparents’ home. Determined to keep pace on the ice with her older sister, Dorothy asked her parents for formal skating lessons. Within a year, she was entering — and winning — regional skating competitions in nearby New York City.

As a teenager, Dorothy began training more intensely, both in New York City and in Colorado Springs, and won the first of three consecutive U.S. National Championships at the age of 17. It wasn’t until 1976, however, that Hamill’s skating career found an international spotlight: That year, at the age of 19, she won the “triple crown” of ice skating, winning the U.S. National Championship, the World Championship, and on February 13, the Olympic gold medal for freestyle skating. Hamill’s Olympic performance was one for the history books; she earned a nearly perfect score in all categories and was the last Olympic skater to earn a gold medal without including a triple jump in her routine.

Dorothy Hamill featured on the February 2, 1976 issue of Time Magazine

While winning international accolades, Hamill also skated her way into the hearts of millions who watched her Olympic performance on national television. Viewers were both captivated by her athleticism and charmed by her humble, girl-next-door demeanor. Hamill’s short “wedge” haircut became a nationwide fashion trend, and the young superstar, having formally decided to go professional, was inundated with endorsement and sponsorship offers. Between product endorsements and a lucrative contract with the Ice Capades, Hamill became the first athlete in U.S. history to earn more than $2 million annually during her first two years as a pro. Today, Hamill remains an active ice skater, but is better known for her philanthropic work, which includes raising awareness for breast cancer and fighting mental illness. A Connecticut athlete with a winning way leaped into stardom, today in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Dorothy Hamill: U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame,” Academy of Achievement

Dorothy Hamill,” Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame