Dorothy Hamill, a Gold Medal Mentor

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AFP/Getty Images
    LAKE PLACID, : Dorothy Hamill of the United States skates during the Artistic performance, seen here in 2000.

    The description "ice in her veins" is almost always an insult, but when describing Dorothy Hamill it's a testament to her continuing passion for ice-skating. We caught up with the 1976 gold medalist at Rockefeller Center, watched the skaters, and talked about her life on and off the ice.

    Hamill, once dubbed America's sweetheart with a wedge haircut copied by millions of girls and women, is now 53 -years-old. She teaches disabled youngsters in Baltimore, where she now lives, how to skate. She has also been mentoring U.S. figure skating champ, California's Rachael Flatt, now headed for Vancouver. "Her strengths are obviously her consistency. She really has the ability to stay focused and know exactly in the program where she is and how many jumps she's doing, " explained Hamill.

    According to Hamill the 17-year-old has few technical weaknesses, but may need to pack her Olympic performance with more punch."She needs to get a little more flair, a little more fire in her belly," advised the performance veteran.

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    Perhaps that fire in her belly is what has kept Hamill on course over sometimes rocky years. She divorced twice, the first time from the son of the late actor Dean Martin, Dean Paul Martin, who was killed in a military plane crash. The eternally youthful looking skater has battled both breast cancer and clinical depression in recent years.

    "Compared to cancer, the depression has been much harder to deal with, to live with to accept, with the stigma attached," she said. Hamill credited her college coed daughter and only child Alexandra with forcing her to confront her demons.

    Still a lean, athletic looking woman with an infectious smile, Hamill is promoting a healthier lifestyle for maturing women in her new partnership with moisturizer "Vaseline Clinical Therapy." That will probably be in her handbag when she takes off for the Vancouver games to watch Rachael Flatt skate. "I probably won't be able to get near the rink, so I'll probably have to text her, but I'm not sure yet what that will be, except to stay focused, " she said.

    Do the winter games make her feel nostalgic for Innsbruck, Austria 1976, and a 19-year-old Connecticut girl who skated off with the gold? "I do. I really do. Everytime I see a replay footage, or watch someone else,  even though it was just a few minutes, it comes flooding back as though it were yesterday." Yesterday was 34 years ago, but who's counting when you have a gold medal to remember.