By Colton Wood
DETROIT – Scott Hamilton thought it was just an ulcer.
In 1997, figure skating icon Hamilton was 50 cities into a 60-city ice tour and could no longer stand the pain he was suffering through, so he went to the emergency room to get medication, a decision that will forever be etched in Hamilton’s mind.
Hamilton, 38 at the time, soon learned his pain wasn’t the result of an ulcer. Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist, had testicular cancer.
After watching his mother struggle with cancer, Hamilton, who eventually lost her to cancer at 18, was frightened by his diagnosis.
Hamilton ended up winning his battle, but it gave him the idea to start his own foundation to change the future of cancer. So, in 1999, he started the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation.
Twenty years later, Hamilton and his foundation hosted a free skating event – “Sk8 to Elimin8 Cancer” – in Detroit to help raise money for his foundation and cancer research.
The event, which was held on Wednesday in anticipation for the start of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, brought together a slew of local skaters and several prominent Olympians and national champions.
“It’s really cool to be able to partner with [U.S. Figure Skating] and for them to be so willing to partner with me,” Hamilton said. “They’ve been unconditionally supportive. We have a lot of skaters here doing this. The skaters like doing this because there’s no one who hasn’t been touched by it in some way, shape or form.”
Among the skaters was Samantha Lang, a junior-level skater and Michigan resident who competed at Midwestern Sectionals this year.
“It’s a really big honor,” said Lang, who moved to Michigan from Texas at 13. “Not a lot of people can say they were a part of something like this. I feel really grateful that I got to do something as special as this and give back to the community because figure skating has done a lot for me.”
While Lang, 17, was skating for more than just the crowd’s enjoyment on Wednesday, she was honored to be able to skate alongside eminent figure skaters.
“It kind of puts pressure on your own back to say, ‘Hey, you need to step up to the plate and do the best you can because look at all these people that have done great things. You need to do great things,’” Lang said.
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Wow what a successful show!!! Thank you to everyone who participated in creating this event! huge thanks to the rink at Campus Martius Park! Thank you skaters for helping us turn cancer upside down and thank you all for coming to our 2019 Sk8toelimin8cancer ice show ! See you next year!! 💙🎗💙🎗@teamscottcares @scotthamilton84 @usfigureskating #campusmartius #sk8toelimin8cancer #scottcaresfoundation #sk8toelimin8cancerdetroit
Yuka Sato, the 1994 world champion from Japan, was one of the last skaters to perform during Wednesday’s event.
Sato, who has lived in Michigan since 1998, said it meant a lot to her to be able to skate for Hamilton’s foundation.
“Numerous of [Hamilton’s and my] friends have fought cancer,” Sato said. “It’s always very sentimental. One more person that can be saved [from cancer], that would be wonderful. Scott and I have been longtime friends. I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs of what Scott has gone through. Anytime I’m available, and if we can do this together – this means a lot to myself, and anything I can do for Scott – I’m here.”
To wrap the night up, Olympic medalist and four-time U.S. national champion Jeremy Abbott took to the ice and awed the audience.
“I think everyone is affected by cancer in one way or another,” Abbott said. “I think what Scott’s doing is really important.”
Abbott was diagnosed and underwent surgery for basal cell carcinoma in Dec. 2017. It is the least malignant and most common form of skin cancer.
Abbott grew up admiring the career of Hamilton, so to be able to perform for the foundation was something he didn’t take for granted.
“Every once in a while,” Abbott said, “I’ll just step back and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m performing with these people that I idolized as a kid and wanted to be and wanted to have their careers. And now, they’re calling me to be a part of it.’ When I actually have those moments where I can really step back and see that progression, my mind is blown.”
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