Saturday, January 3, 2009

For Scott Hamilton, a well-lived life is compulsory

"I am a short, bald, chemo'd, brain-radiated, surgically repaired, male figure skater of unknown ethnic origin. What choice do I have but to be optimistic?"

Anyone fortunate enough to know Scott Hamilton will recognize his blunt humor in that passage from his soon-to-be-released book, "The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason to Be Miserable)."

If you don't know Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic figure skating gold medalist, survivor of testicular cancer and a brain tumor, you will think of him as a friend after reading this book.

Due Jan. 6, it's part self-help guide and part life manual with fatherly advice and reminders to seek joy amid everyday annoyances. It's not a rehash of his autobiography, published in 2000.

"To do another book was not really in my plans," he said.

Nor did he plan to get testicular cancer in 1997 or a pituitary brain tumor in 2004.

After that last medical ordeal -- his third, starting with the childhood digestive disorder that stunted his growth -- Hamilton began speaking to fellow brain tumor patients about the faith and philosophy that sustained him. From that came the book he felt compelled to write.

"You always joke about the old cliché, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger -- or leaves you disfigured for the rest of your life," Hamilton said. "I look at the scars I've accumulated, and that skin is tougher than what was there before.

"I've got a familiar face. There's more of it now than ever before. I felt I've experienced things for a reason and I've been able to help people going through cancer just by talking them through it. I've been through enough that it's brought me to a place that a decision here, a decision there, perspective, and kind of a shift in my mentality, wow, what a difference. And I just thought if I can share that with people it might inspire them to do the same."

He structured the book in eight chapters to celebrate his affinity for the number eight.

Born on 8/8/58 (and adopted six weeks later), he spent thousands of hours tracing variations of the basic figure eight while practicing compulsory figures. They demanded precision and patience but promoted edge control and body awareness, nuances lost on kids who wanted to jump and spin.

Compulsories weren't TV-friendly and were eliminated by skating officials. Hamilton lamented the decision.

"I knew what they gave to me. Ultimately they gave me better control over what I was doing on the ice, and I wouldn't have won the

Olympics without them," he said.

"Something that I resisted, something that I didn't fully appreciate the importance of, became the foundation of everything I was able to do afterwards."

Full article.

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