Hamill battles injury in second week of 'DWTS'

Back problem curtails practice time for former Olympic champion

Dorothy Hamill received positive feedback from the judges after her debut dance.
Dorothy Hamill received positive feedback from the judges after her debut dance. (ABC Medianet)


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By Lois Elfman, special to
(03/25/2013) - The first show of season 16 of Dancing with the Stars was pretty blissful for Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill. She and professional partner Tristan MacManus delivered a well-received contemporary routine that left the often caustic judges with nothing bad to say.

"For me, that dance should be designated an area of outstanding beauty," the notoriously prickly Len Goodman said.

"The ice queen will melt my heart any time with performances like that," the fiery Bruno Tonioli said.

Hamill described show day as exciting and nerve-racking but also as having a great sense of camaraderie, including everyone behind the scenes, such as the people involved in hair, makeup and wardrobe. The idea was to put all the celebrities at ease before hitting the dance floor on live television.

"Getting out on the dance floor when they call your name, it just takes your breath away," Hamill said. "You have to remember to breathe. For one brief moment, I felt I was on the ice, but then, of course, the minute I go to step I was reminded, 'This is not the same movement.' But it was certainly a lot of fun."

For the contemporary routine, Hamill danced barefoot rather than in heels, which are worn for Latin and ballroom.

"It probably for me is preferable to heels. The balance being on bare feet is a little more solid than being pitched forward in heels," she noted. "The floor felt nice.

"My instincts are to push and cover the floor, but it's not really what you're supposed to do."

Up next for Hamill and MacManus is the jive, an uptempo dance known for its bouncy movement, kicks and flicks. Unfortunately, Hamill has had an injury that prevented her from doing much practice.

"I've been trying to memorize the steps," Hamill said. "It's an injury that, if I didn't have to get up and dance, would take a little bit of time and would get better."

She has a synovial cyst in her lumbar spine between L4 and L5. It created pain in her hips and some numbness in her right foot, which caused her to feel unstable.

"It's not a herniated disc," she explained. "The good news is, it's something that's very treatable. The bad news is that it's supposed to take time and rest. I don't have that right now."

Hamill noticed initial discomfort when she was skating and starting to train with MacManus, especially when she did the back bends in the contemporary routine. She thought it was just initial discomfort from dancing but eventually realized it was more.

Treatment seems to have worked, and Hamill has been able to practice over the weekend. Before that, she studied video of the routine and practiced in her head. She hopes to perform Monday night.

"Tristan is a dream. I can't say enough good things about him," Hamill said. "The people I've met on the show are such fine people in addition to their talents that we all know about. They're really dear."

In addition to their obvious skills, the hair and makeup team are all excellent at calming the celebrities.

"It's kind of where you go to chill. You can close your eyes and let everybody do their magic," Hamill said.

All the teams perform Monday night. Viewer votes count for half the results. Hamill's call-in number is 800-868-3409. Audience members can also vote online at and on Facebook and via text message. The first elimination of the season is Tuesday night.

Hamill is grateful to skating fans for their incredible support.

"Thank you," she said. "It's noticed, and it's felt in my heart."