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Image: Scott Hamilton
Matthew Stockman  /  Getty Images file
TODAY staff
updated 2/16/2009 3:40:17 PM ET 2009-02-16T20:40:17

Figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton answers questions from TODAY viewers, sharing his thoughts on “Celebrity Apprentice,” skating and cancer recovery.

Q. As a 31-year-old cancer survivor myself, may I ask, how is your health?
— Marjorie Margel, Laguna Niguel, Calif.

A. Everything is as good as it can be. Since the radiation for the brain tumor, I have been on hormone replacement. That helps me live a normal life. With the artificial nature of having your body operate on pharmaceutical hormones, I feel different. But, then again, I have never been this old before. Life is great!

Q. As we grow older, our bodies start to “push back” when we want to push ourselves. Illness, injury or just plain old aging can slow us or stop us in our tracks. As a creative athlete, what do you do so that your performances and workouts continue to be interesting and challenging as time marches on?
— Emily Reseigh, Philadelphia, Penn.

A. I work with a trainer named Francis Fessler in Franklin, Tenn. He is great at strength training and plyometrics. The exercises he puts me through are different each time, so it makes it fresh. Changing exercise routine is crucial to avoid boredom. There are many ways to work the same muscles doing different exercises. But when we get older, it is important to keep in mind — slow and steady! Patience and perseverance!

Q. How did you work up the courage to try a backflip for the first time? How do you go about learning a move like that?
—Steffen, Minneapolis, Minn.

A. I decided to take my time learning how to do the backflip. Anything with that level of danger should be approached with respect and an understanding that proper technique is the most important thing. I would work it, then leave it for a few weeks. When I would come back to it, I would begin where I left off and try to take it to the next level. Many people were involved in the process. Greg Weiss [gymnastics coach], Gigi and Joey Percelli [show skaters] and other skaters who could do it helped me along the way. All in all it took a year to do it in a performance for the first time.

Q. Have you ever felt nervous when you did the double or triple turns? I was always afraid for the skaters when it would come to that because sometimes they would fall.
— Norma Villafranca, San Benito, Texas

A. Every single time. When you are a competitor you push it to the limit, knowing that the people you are competing with are doing the same. That puts a lot of pressure on every move. Every jump takes split-second timing. If you are even the slightest bit off, a jumping error could destroy whatever chances you had for a decent result.

I don’t blame you for being concerned. It’s scary out there, and we want everyone to do their best.

Q. What is your most special memory of all your years of performing and competing?
— JoAnn Taylor, Ringwood, N.J.

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A. A professional competition in Edmonton, Alberta, called “Skates of Gold.” It was on NBC in the mid-’90s and was easily the best night of skating I ever had. The concept of the event was to bring Olympic gold medalists of different Olympics to compete against each other. I skated my absolute best and beat Victor Petrenko and Brian Boitano. I just released a “My Favorite Performances” DVD and both programs are included on that. Check it out at www.scotthamiltondvd.com.

Q. Will you ever skate in an exhibition or competition again? I miss watching you skate.
— Kim, Morrisville, N.C.

A. I am in the process of deciding that right now. Nothing would make me happier than to step out in front of an audience and have a great night on the ice. It will take a lot to get me there. I stepped away from skating almost five years ago, and it is going to take everything I have and everything I know to put me back out there.

Q. Will you ever be a coach?
— Linda McBride

A. I don’t have any plans right now to coach. I tell people that if I am going to spend that much time with a child, it will be my own. But never say never. I love to see young people improve their skills on the ice and I like being a part of that process.

Q. What inspired you to be on “Celebrity Apprentice”? How was it working for Donald Trump and what can you tell us about the whole experience?
— Don Lindon, Columbus, Ohio

A. I met Donald Trump many years ago when he took over the construction of the Wollman Rink in Central Park. I liked him then and have been around him on several other occasions. He is a great guy!  Easy to talk to, generous and genuine to how he presents himself publicly. His kids are great! That says a lot about him. I did “Apprentice” because it sounded like a lot of fun. I can’t really talk about anything until it airs. I can tell you that each episode is now two hours long. That should tell you that the stories each week will be compelling.

Q. How did you like Boise, Idaho, and the Special Olympics?
— Roy Shores, Nampa, Idaho

A. It was a powerful, enlightening, positive, emotional, inspiring, celebration of life. These athletes represent the “Olympic Spirit” perfectly. But it is more than athletics — it is a movement that will change people’s minds and hearts. These athletes set an example for us to follow.

When you see these extraordinary human beings represent themselves as they do, you wonder why we don’t look at the world the way they do — we would be a planet of peace, a planet of love and acceptance, and a world where we look forward to the next moment with enthusiasm and wonder instead of fear and suspicion.

I love these athletes, their families and this movement. I urge everyone to get involved anyway they can.

Q. What do you feel was your best performance? I think you are the best male skater I have ever seen over a 30-year span.
— Marie Davis, Far Rockaway, N.Y.

A. Thank you for that. I will share this Web site with Brian Boitano and Kurt Browning. As far as best performance, that would be hard to say. I would be making a single decision looking over a period of 36 years. I liked some of my “Stars on Ice” programs the best. “Walk This Way,” “Hair,” “Cuban Pete,” “Steppin’ Out,” “Figaro,” “Don Quixote,” “One Week,” “In the Mood,” “Keepin’ the Customer Satisfied” and “Double Bogie Blues” all come to mind as programs that defined my professional career.

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