|Evan Lysacek, Scott Hamilton, Dorothy Hamill, Brian Boitano and Peggy Fleming attend the New York premiere Of 'RISE' on February 17, 2011
When Scott Hamilton called, his fellow Olympic skating gold medalists listened.
And then they made their plans to go to Cleveland.
There are not many people in the skating world who can rally the troops the way Hamilton can, but when he phoned the 12 other U.S. Olympic figure skating champions and asked if they could attend the 13th annual Scott Hamilton and Friends show and gala in Cleveland, they all said yes.
Everyone, from Dick Button, who won his first of two gold medals in 1948, to Evan Lysacek, who upset Evgeni Plushenko for the gold medal in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, is expected to be in Cleveland Saturday evening for the event. It will mark the first time all 13 will be honored together as Olympic gold medalists. Although all 13 were in New York for the February 2011 premiere of the documentary “Rise,” that was more of an event to commemorate the members of the 1961 U.S. world team who were killed in a plane crash than an event to honor the Olympic champions.
This year, Hamilton’s show will be a tribute to the Olympic greats, but also it is a tribute to Hamilton. Of course, he is an accomplished skater, broadcaster and show producer, but he also is a cancer survivor, having battled testicular cancer and a brain tumor. A native of Bowling Green, Ohio, Hamilton has been treated at the Cleveland Clinic and his shows have benefitted the hospital’s Taussig Cancer Institute. In the previous 12 years of Hamilton’s show, an estimated $14 million has been raised for cancer research, according to show producers.
Hamilton, who makes his home outside Nashville, Tenn., has a photo of all 13 Olympic gold medalists from the “Rise” event in his office, but he said he is looking forward to hanging an updated photo after the show this weekend.
The lucky 13 includes: Button, Hayes Alan Jenkins (1956), Tenley Albright (1956), David Jenkins (1960), Carol Heiss Jenkins (1960), Peggy Fleming (1968), Dorothy Hamill (1976), Hamilton (1984), Brian Boitano (1988), Kristi Yamaguchi (1992), Tara Lipinski (1998), Sarah Hughes (2002) and Lysacek (2010). Of the 13, only Boitano and Hamill will be skating in Hamilton’s show. The United States has never won an Olympic gold medal in pairs or ice dancing.
For some, the travel is easy. Hayes Jenkins and his wife Heiss Jenkins live in Cleveland. Heiss Jenkins is a coach at the Winterhurst Ice Rink in Lakewood, located on the near west side of Cleveland. Hayes Jenkins is a retired attorney who formerly worked for Goodyear, which is based in Akron. His brother, David Jenkins, went to Case Western medical school in Cleveland and now lives in Oklahoma.
For others, the travel is a little more difficult. Hughes, who grew up on Long Island and now makes her home in New York City, said she hopes she can still travel to Cleveland in the wake of Hurricane Sandy earlier this week.
“I’m really thrilled,” Hamilton said. “When I called everyone I got this absolute, genuine excitement from everyone, and they all put it in their calendar. There were many times where I thought this wasn’t going to happen. Evan is still competing, Dick is busy running around the country doing talks, Kristi is busy doing TV shows. Everyone is busy.”
But one by one, the event began fitting together. Boitano, who has been busy with his TV cooking shows, said he has been trying to make Hamilton’s show fit in his schedule for years and was thrilled he could do it this year. Hamilton actually started working on Boitano a year ago.
“Brian has been a big part of my life, and I really wanted him to experience this,” Hamilton said. “When I called him, he was on his way to Sun Valley and he asked me if he could skate. I told him, ‘I’d love it.’ That’s a big deal.”
Hamill, a breast cancer survivor herself, has performed in Hamilton’s show the past two years and wanted to skate in it again.
“Really, I didn’t want to ask anymore of anyone by having them skate in the show,” Hamilton said. “But Brian asked if he could skate, and Dorothy said, ‘I’ll skate if you want me to,’ so I said, ‘Sure.’”
The last piece of the puzzle, Hamilton said, was working around Lysacek’s comeback schedule. Lysacek had planned on making his competitive return at Skate America last month, but a groin injury forced him to withdraw. He is busily trying to add a competition to his schedule, but confirmed he will be in Cleveland this weekend.
“It’s really special to me when I think about it and realize that it’s little old me in that group,” said Lysacek, who last competed in Vancouver. “That group is just so impressive, not only in their skating careers but as individuals. And I’m still in my skating career; I’m in the thick of it.”
Among those also performing in the show are U.S. Olympians Jeremy Abbott and Nicole Bobek, Canadian Olympic bronze medalist Joannie Rochette, world champion Yuka Sato, reigning U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and two-time national champion Alissa Czisny. Both Wagner and Czisny are training with hopes of making the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. In addition, country music great Wynonna Judd will be the show’s musical guest.
Perhaps the most impressive person who will be in Cleveland is none other than Hamilton himself. He was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2010 and underwent 10 surgeries in the span of four months.
“That kind of leaves a mark,” Hamilton said. “2010 really knocked me down hard. After the brain tumor, doctors told me I wouldn’t feel the same for about a year. I’ve just had to be patient. My last two visits to Cleveland my doctors gave me a bright solid green light and there is no limit to my activity right now. I’ve been OK.”
This trip to Cleveland will not involve a doctor visit, but it will provide the medicine he needs.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.