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Scott Hamilton On The Importance Of Falling Down And Getting Back Up, And Status Of His Third Brain Tumor

By Brandon Penny | Feb. 01, 2017, 9:34 p.m. (ET)

Scott Hamilton and the cast conclude an Evening with Scott Hamilton and Friends to benefit Scott Hamilton Cares Foundation at Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 20, 2016 in Nashville.


There is no better representative of the notion of falling down and getting back up than 1984 Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton.

He was given up as an infant.

He stopped growing as a child.

He faced testicular cancer as an adult.

He was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2004.

Then again in 2010.

And for a third time in 2016.

Yet each time, the four-time world and U.S. champion got back up and came back stronger than before.

That’s why Hamilton was the natural choice as the spokesperson for U.S. Figure Skating’s Get Up campaign. It is a movement that has a direct correlation to skaters, who are accustomed to getting back up after falls, but that resonates with everyone – athlete or not.

Get Up, which uses the hashtag #GetUp on social media, is aimed at starting a conversation around being fearless in the face of failure.

In honor of Get Up Day on Feb. 1, Hamilton spoke to TeamUSA.org about his own Get Up moments and why the campaign is so important.


What does the Get Up campaign mean to you?

You talk to any skater, they’re going to say it’s that endless process of learning and growing and getting to the higher, better place. It’s this practice of learning from constant failure that allows skaters to grow and develop and become great skaters and champions. As skaters, we always do that. We fall down, we get up, we fail and we figure out a better way to do things. We hone our skills and we hone the way we approach things, and I love that about skating.

So many skaters that have gone on to create great careers in business, medicine, law, and they look back on what they learned through a lot of failure in figure skating and getting up toward that building success. Anytime I do talks with corporate leaders or anyone that’s been successful, you always ask that question: Who in this room has failed? And 100 percent of them raise their hand.  Yet it’s such a weird thing in our society that we don’t like to acknowledge failure or recognize failure.

This conversation that U.S. Figure Skating is starting is to make failure a part of one’s success story, and it’s an amazing thing. We fall down all kinds of different ways. We fall down in school, we fall down in friendships and relationships. We fall down in health and just all the little failures that fill our day and can really bring us down; this it to turn that on its head and say, ‘Guess what? Failure’s great, failure is OK,’ Failure is something that we all do, and we need to embrace it because it allows us to grow and become the people that we need to become.


You have gone through several Get Up moments in your skating career and personal life. Which one stands out the most to you?

I think it’s my unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses. I’ve gotten to be very accomplished in that regard. You’re given the diagnosis that no one wants to hear, and you find a way to endure. You’re knocked down, you get up. Same thing with the brain tumor. You have a brain tumor, well that’s not fair. And through paying attention and participating willingly and your pursuit back to health, you learn a lot and you grow and you become stronger and deeper through the experience.


How is it that you’re able to maintain such a positive attitude through this hobby of yours?

It’s just a muscle you build that this too shall pass. And my days are my days, and I want to live them joyfully. I’m not happy every single day, but I try to find something great in every day.


Where does that Get Up mindset come from for you?

It’s life. I was an unwanted child and I was adopted at 6 weeks old. I got sick and I got better, and I started skating and I fell down a lot. Being a male skater in a female-dominated sport, it’s really hard to break through. I got used to the idea that ‘no’ is probably going to happen a lot and that’s not so debilitating, so you understand what’s the worst thing that can happen here. Well, they can say no. So I can go to the next place, or I can build something myself. It’s just that muscle that’s built in your psyche that says I’ve been knocked down before, I’ve been hurt, I’ve been a failure, I’ve been last place, I’ve been all those places, and really the only way to go is up. So when you do that a bunch of times, pretty soon nothing seems so bad.


What is the current status of your brain tumor?

We’re just keeping an eye on it. It hasn’t really presented itself where it’s causing a lot of mischief yet, and until it does, I’m not going to put myself through something preemptively when it’s the devil I know. The way things grow, they don’t break off and spread through the body. It’s a tumor that grows and presses up against things and creates situations around vital areas of your brain that you want to get it out or get rid of it before it gets too big. As of last scan, Nov. 3, it was still really not doing anything. Going for a scan on Feb. 10 and I’ll know more the end of that day exactly where I stand with the tumor and when I’m going to have to pull the trigger on a treatment option. More than likely, I’m leaning toward having the surgery again, but that may change depending on conditions and what the little bugger is doing.


How can people participate in the Get Up campaign?

Think about your Get Up moment – a time you were really down and didn’t see a way out of it, but here you are. Ask a friend about theirs. You’ll find everyone has one. And it’s fun to talk about it. It’s really cathartic to talk about those times you were really up against it and feeling like there’s no way out. Those forks in the road take you to a better place.

Something pops in your mind that’s kind of painful or something you wish never happened. But in further studying it, you’ll find it’s really important that it happened because it made you who you are today.

If I didn’t have cancer, I wouldn’t have met and married my wife. I wouldn’t have the children I have or the life I have or the friends I have or anything else. I can trace back to cancer; it was a fork in the road. I had to take left or right and I chose one of them, and my life is pretty good right now.