Scott Hamilton: From the Olympics to Trump's Board Room
Thursday, February 26, 2009; 11:00 AM
Figure skating champion and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton was online Thursday, Feb. 26, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his newest business venture -- that of contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, hosted by Donald Trump (premieres March 1 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC), and his latest book, The Great Eight: How to Be Happy (Even When You Have Every Reason to be Miserable).
A transcript follows.
Rockville, Md.: Who were your favorite co-contestants on the show? Did you spar with anyone?
Scott Hamilton: It was really fun sharing this experience with my friend Clint Black.
He has been a friend for a long time and we helped each other through.
Detroit, Mich.: I have always admired your attitude -- you always seem so upbeat. Are you a born optimist? Or have you had to work at being happy?
Scott Hamilton: I, like everybody else, am a work in progress. Most of my most devastating setbacks have given me the opportunity to rise above those challenges. That helped me realize that everything is going to be okay as long as I participate in that turnaround. It is my responsibility to get there.
Minneapolis: Hi Scott -- Thanks for taking questions today. There's been some discussion lately about the "heyday" of figure skating has now passed, mostly because there are no big "stars" to capture the public's attention who are currently competing (Michelle Kwan the most prominent example). Because of that, we're not seeing nearly the level of coverage of the sport that we used to see. What's your take on that? If that's the case, what needs to happen to bring the sport back to the forefront? Or will the upcoming Olympics next year turn things around?
Scott Hamilton: I believe a lot of the decisions made during the heyday of skating set the stage for our current recession. Networks have changed, sponsors have changed. And it is up to the skating industry to respond to these new economic challenges. The skating has never been stronger. The athletes are driven. It is up to them to build a relationship with the audience that will bring them in consistently. Then you'll see a change in viewership.
Skating: Scott, who do you think are the skaters to watch over the next couple of years?
Scott Hamilton: Skaters can rise to the top quickly under this new scoring system. It is hard to predict who will rise to the top for the Olympics. This year's men's event at Nationals showed me that. Also, the ladies' competition is very deep and the best performance will make the team. Too many names to mention, but it will be fun to watch!
Favorite job?: You've done a LOT in your career so far. What has been your favorite part thus far? Skating, commentating, writing, your time as an Apprentice? Some job you had before you hit the spotlight?
Scott Hamilton: In order... skating, commentating, writing,...................... a lot of stuff, Apprentice.
Alexandria, Va.: Which of your fellow contestants surprised you the most? Did you know any of them before the show began? Do you keep in touch with any of them in particular now?
Scott Hamilton: I had the opportunity, before shooting began, to sit and have coffee with Andrew Dice Clay. He is a very soft-spoken, sensitive person away from the cameras. I was pleasantly surprised and happy for that quiet time together before it all hit the fan! The rest of the contestants were about what I expected.
Raleigh, N.C.: Are you still providing commentary for skating competitions? Where can we see you next? And for that matter, how often are you getting onto the rink yourself these days? Your style has always been so impressive!
Scott Hamilton: Doing all of NBC's events, including the upcoming World Figure Skating Championships in March. And, I am back on the ice trying to get my body back in some sort of shape that doesn't represent my age. Looking good so far! Slow and steady wins the race.
Manassas, Va.: Hey Scott!
Where can we see you live? Are you still with Stars on Ice? You and Brian Boitano seem like you can skate forever!
Also, how's your health? Hopefully still cancer free!
A Huge Scott Hamilton Fan!
Scott Hamilton: I don't know if and when I'll be performing again. Boitano is unbelievable!
My health is good. Daily maintenance with hormone replacement due to my pituitary brain tumor. Every day is a gift!
"a lot of stuff, Apprentice": Oh my! Does that mean that you didn't have the best experience doing it? Or that it's been such a short adventure that it just can't rate up there with the other stuff you've done? I'll be pulling for you this season, so I hope it's the latter!!
Scott Hamilton: I enjoyed my time on the Apprentice. It is just that my career has been so rich, and beyond my wildest dreams that I put it where I did. Donald Trump is a great man and a generous boss. Loved his kids and being in N.Y. in that way was surreal.
Happiness: Scott, 2009 has been a rough year so far. Both professionally and personally I feel like I've been hit a thousand different ways with bad news and bad situations. I find it harder and harder to be happy and I don't see that changing any time soon. Do you have any advice for me?
Scott Hamilton: Yes, get my book The Great Eight. I am sure there is something in there that can help. That's the reason I wrote it. Life is difficult, but so much is in our control. We just don't feel like it sometimes. If that's the course you take, I hope the book brings you some peace and contentment. We all deserve it.
If you win...: If you win Celebrity Apprentice, what will you do with the prize? It goes to charity, right? You don't have to actually go work for The Donald, do you?
Scott Hamilton: If I win, the money will go to my favorite charity, the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute to fund cancer research. As far as working for Mr. Trump, it would be fun but I don't think I want the cut in pay!
Falls Church, Va.: Did you know Donald Trump personally before you started the competition? If so, has your relationship changed over the course of your time doing the show?
Scott Hamilton: I've been around Mr. Trump on several occasions surrounding the Wollman Rink in Central Park. His commitment to The Figure Skating Club in Harlem has been extraordinary and I love the time I've spent in his company.
I hope our relationship has only changed for the better because of the show!
Washington, D.C: Scott Hamilton! I grew up watching you skate and love watching your flips on ice!
It is awesome to still see you and hear about you in the media and your book seems wonderful! Are you an entrepreneur now, or what?! (And, how is the Donald in person?)
Scott Hamilton: Thank you for your compliments. The book (The Great Eight) has been a wonderful project and one I hope gets into the hands that need it the most.
As far as my being and entrepreneur, I'm a male figure skater. There wasn't much for me, so I was forced to make my own way. That's what an entrepreneur does!
As far as Mr. Trump, in person, what you see is who he is. He's very honest about that.
Washington, D.C.: My theory of why skating is in a "recession" is that there are so many skaters who win a world or Olympic title and then immediately retire/turn pro, even if they're still pretty young. I know many want to start earning money and get tired and sore after they've been competing for years, even if they're only in their late teens or early 20s. But when someone suddenly wins and then disappears it's harder to keep interest. I think what helped out the heyday was that the Hamiltons, Kwans, Yamaguchis, Stojkos, Torvills, Deans, etc, etc, etc stuck around at the top level for a while. Am I off base?
Scott Hamilton: The problem wasn't professional skating, it was a lack of professional skating. When the World Championships and the World Professional Championships were both healthy, the sport was booming. The amateur structures changed their rules to keep their skaters, thus effecting the natural turnover of champions that fed both entities. The way out is to reestablish a healthy professional competitive structure and allow the "Olympic eligible" skaters their moment in the spotlight so they can move on and give the next skater their turn.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Did you do anything to prepare yourself for the Celebrity Apprentice? Did you read Donald Trumps books, did you view past episodes, etc.? If so, do you think any of it helped? Or is it best to pretty much be able to think on your feet and evaluate situations well and take proper actions?
Scott Hamilton: I did my homework, talked to a lot of people and came up with the only strategy that made sense; win every task and you can't get fired. When you get there, you realize that preparation can only take you so far. The tasks we were asked to do would be next to impossible to complete in the time we are given. You have to think on your feet under extreme circumstances. It is a bumpy ride and much more difficult than what shows up on television.
Springfield, Va.: You're a dad, right? Are your kids getting into skating? If not, would you want them to?
Scott Hamilton: My 5 year old son is in hockey and I'm glad he is wearing all that padding! My 1 year old is walking and very active. As far as figure skating? My instincts are to keep them away. My involvement in this "very small community" would have them hearing about their dad way too much. I'll get them into anything else they want to do, happily!
Brande Roderick Fan: Did you get to work with Brande Roderick on the show? If so, how was she? She's a model but she does have some business experience, so I was wondering how she came across.
Scott Hamilton: I like Brande. She has a keen mind and a good business sense. She was my competitor, so I didn't get to bond with her outside the general pleasantries. I thought she was always very nice and very approachable.
Philadelphia, Pa.: How often, if at all, do you get to ice skate? You were so good at competitions, and I am wondering if you still get many chances to just get out of the ice and enjoy yourself?
Scott Hamilton: I'm back on the ice now, trying to get my body back. I'm open to whatever result this training will bring. I'm working hard and I'm in a healthy amount of pain every day. It is hard for me to just go out and skate around. I loved the jumps, spins and performing! My brain remembers how to skate. My body is another story. It is slowly reminding itself, after 5 years off, how to do it again. Wish me luck!
Knoxville, Tenn.: I think that the thing that would keep me from doing a reality show would be that I wouldn't want to be away from my family. How long were you filming? Did you get to see your family along the way?
Scott Hamilton: We had to guarantee the show a 6 week commitment. After the first couple of weeks, our families were allowed to visit. It is a long time to be away, but work is work. I'm not at liberty to discuss how long I was away or any other details. You'll have to watch to see how the drama unfolds. Two hour episodes tells me that there is a lot of drama!
The Great Eight: Can you give us an example of one of the principles in your book? (Obviously I don't want to ask you to give away too much, but just am wondering where you're coming from with regard to happiness.)
Scott Hamilton: It is about building strength over time from many different angles. So much is in our control that we don't recognize as being in our control. So much of what is in The Great Eight is common sense. It is about commitment and repetition in these principles that, over time, will give you the ability to endure the toughest of times. Especially today, when we are pummeled with negativity and toxic news, we need, more than ever, weapons to rise above. We are all in this together! I'm just trying to do my part by sharing this book.
New York, N.Y.: My daughter wants to train to be a professional skater but I have no idea how I would go about even exploring it for her. Any advice?
Scott Hamilton: I don't know what level she is now, but there are many different ways of participating in skating ice shows, coaching, producing, and competing are all facets to this industry. I would have to get to know her goals in order to give the best advice. You live in New York. The Ice Theatre of NY, housed at Chelsea Piers is a great place to learn how to perform as a professional skater. Check it out!
Charlotte, N.C.: Were you a fan of Celebrity Apprentice before you landed a spot on the show? Any chance we'll see you on Dancing with the Stars in the future? I think you would probably steamroll the competition!
Scott Hamilton: Your former North Carolina resident Kristi Yamaguchi set the bar pretty high as a skater doing Dancing with the Stars! That's a hard act to follow! I've been invited to do it. I just haven't had the guts to follow through. Celebrity Apprentice seemed like a better fit, if I'm doing reality television. Now that I've swam in those shark-infested waters, it will be interesting to see if I have the guts to put myself back in reality television.
Louisville, Ky.: You've traveled all over the world as a skater -- do you have a favorite place to visit? Any place that you're still hoping to get to? Or that you want to go back to? I envy that your career has taken you to so many places.
Scott Hamilton: I've performed in every state in the USA, except South Dakota! Maybe that will be my first stop on the comeback tour! Or, I'll take my sons to Mt. Rushmore.
One thing I've learned about different cities is that it isn't the architecture, geography, history or culture that defines a city, it is people.
I've been fortunate to travel all over the world and I'm amazed how, as human beings, we all pretty much want the same things out of life. It is fun to visit different places and experience different lifestyles.
Louisville is a great town! You're lucky to live there.
Out Sized Personalities: So many of your fellow contestants have reputations for personalities that are ....uh....unpleasant.
Did you reach down to their level or did you maintain the classy public persona we have been priviledged to?
Scott Hamilton: Great question! It is a pressure cooker that can bring out a lot of suppressed things in your personality! It can go either way, or both. It all comes out in the edit. I hope they're kind to me in the edit. I did my best to represent my faith, my family, and myself. I hope I didn't let down any of those. Pray for me!
Dancing with the Stars!: Scott, if they invite you again, you have to do it! You would be such a fan favorite!
Scott Hamilton: Who wants to work that hard?!
Skating: Do you think we're reached the limits of what human beings could possibly accomplish on skates? I am always in awe of the jumps and tricks that skaters can pull off, but it seems like there cannot possibly be anything further that could be done, jumps-wise. We've seen back flips and triples, but surely we'll never see the day when someone will be able to jump into the air and spin five times, etc. Thoughts on the future of the "tricks" side of the sport?
Scott Hamilton: In any competitive sport, it amazes me how these athletes take it to the next level. I thought, in my days of competing, that you had to be a mutant to do a quad. Now, you need one to be in the top 10. Is a quintuple (5 revolutions in the air) possible? Absolutely! It may take a change in skate technology. It seems we've been skating on whale bones since the last century. I wish a large shoe company would advance the technology to see where we could take this. I've learned to never say never when it comes to the limits of what a human being can do. Ask Tiger Woods!
Washington, D.C.: Thanks for doing this chat! I really enjoy both watching you skate and hearing your commentary during competitions. Are you planning to do more of either? Will you be a commentator at the Olympics next year?
Scott Hamilton: As I said earlier, I am working hard to skate again. If I can get to a level that I am happy with, I will step out and perform again. I had the greatest job in the world for 20 years. I've had a great job for the last 5 being a full time father! Now it is time for me to get back to work.
I will be doing the next Olympics as a commentator for NBC. It will be my 6th Olympics as a commentator. Vancouver will be a great host city and the coverage will be live. Doesn't get any better than that!
Santa Fe, N.M.: So, what's next? Even though we haven't seen it yet, you're already done with Apprentice. And you're book is out -- what's next for you? (And may I add that I am amazed at what you've been able to accomplish so far in your career? It's like there's nothing you can't do. Inspiring!)
Scott Hamilton: I am writing that next chapter, in my head, right now! Change is inevitable and I've never been this old before. None of us have. I'm looking forward to everything I get to see my sons experience and I am looking forward to whatever life brings me. I am open to whatever that is!
The book is something that I'm proud of and I hope it moves me in a direction where I can truly help people.
P.S. There's a LOT I can't do! Dunk a basketball, comb my hair, and give birth... Well, maybe I might be able to give birth, to another backflip! That's pain!
It's all in the edit...: I hope you were extra nice to the camera people!
Scott Hamilton: I loved the crew so much, especially the cameramen! When I would start taking too much responsibility they brought me back into reality. The production staff was thoughtful and extremely outgoing. The make-up and hair crews (didn't need the hair team) were fun, even at the earliest of hours. The producers were supportive and fun to be around. And, of course, Mr. Trump made it all what it was.
Skating on TV: Scott, are you worried about the future of skating on television? It seems like there's less and less of it to be seen and that's so disappointing to me. I grew up watching you and your fellow pros skate and I want my kids to have that same experience. The sport needs continued exposure if it's going to grow.
Scott Hamilton: Again, networks have changed. Sponsorships have changed. The whole business model has changed. The only way to succeed in anything is to roll with the changes and adjust. We will have to do this to succeed and to thrive as an industry.
Thanks for the chat! Hope to see you all soon!
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.