Olympian Dorothy Hamill reveals life after breast cancer battle, being named America's sweetheart

At age 19, Dorothy Hamill captivated the world when she won the gold medal at the 1976 winter Olympics in Austria for figure skating — and now she’s hoping to win fans over with her newfound passion.

The mom and breast cancer survivor recently teamed up with Nature’s Bounty to help champion a movement towards a happier, healthier life.

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Fox News spoke with Hamill about participating in the Olympics, her famous haircut and being open about her battle with depression.

Fox News: How does it feel to watch the Olympics, as opposed to participate in them?
Dorothy Hamill: Oh boy, it continues to be fascinating to watch. It’s a different sport now, but it’s incredible to see these young athletes and the technical things they can do. It’s been really fun.

Fox News: How has being a mom and a breast cancer survivor inspired you to educate others to get healthy?
Hamill: As a young athlete and Olympian, I thought I was doing everything I could to take care of my body, which I was. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I can’t do the same things I used to do. To share what I’ve learned with other people is really important.

Former U.S. figure skating Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill poses at the "Stand Up To Cancer" television event aimed at raising funds to accelerate innovative cancer research at the Sony Studios Lot in Culver City, California, September 10, 2010. The one-hour live commercial-free fundraising event was aired across multiple broadcast and cable channels at the same time. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT) - GM1E69B0OD701

Former U.S. figure skating Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill poses at the "Stand Up To Cancer" television event aimed at raising funds to accelerate innovative cancer research at the Sony Studios Lot in Culver City, California, September 10, 2010.  (Reuters)

Eating balanced meals, getting enough sleep and staying active are all important to me in my life right now… You don’t have to be a hardcore athlete to have a healthy life. You can do a lot of simple things. And taking vitamins has really helped. It’s given me much more energy and a lot more positive outlook on day to day life.

Fox News: As a gold medal winner, how did you cope with fame at 19?
Hamill: The good news was that there wasn’t social media. There were three TV stations and it wasn’t even aired live. So I didn’t have the pressure of being in a fishbowl like these athletes do now. I think there’s a lot more pressure now. But they also have media training and all kinds of things we never had to have. It wasn’t part of it. So I feel very lucky and blessed if you will that I wasn’t competing under those circumstances. It’s gotta be a lot of pressure, more than I had. That’s for sure.

Fox News: Was there ever a moment when you realized you were a celebrity after the Olympics?
Hamill: I remember walking down the streets of New York. People would stop and they were so nice! "We’re so proud of you and what you did for our country. Congratulations!" People were so sweet. And these were strangers. But it wasn’t paparazzi or anything. It was just people who were nice.

American Dorothy Hamill performs her technical skate at the Goodwill Winter Games in Lake Placid February 18. Hamill, age 43, an Olympic Champion in 1976, sits in fifth place after this portion of the competition.

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American Dorothy Hamill performing her technical skate at the Goodwill Winter Games in Lake Placid February 18, 2000.  (Reuters)

Fox News: What’s the story behind the Dorothy haircut?
Hamill: It’s pretty simple. I always had short hair and I hated my short hair. I thought I looked like a boy. So I would go through the fashion magazines and try to find a hairstyle that would suit me. The look was originally created by Vidal Sassoon, although he didn’t cut my hair.

And that’s how it came about. It wasn’t anything planned. I just wanted to do something about my short hair. And it was the era of the wash and dry when you wanted to have movement (laughs).

Fox News: How did you feel about being called America’s sweetheart?
Hamill: I never really understood that. I think what happened was I won the Olympics on Friday the 13th in Europe. By the time it hit the newspapers, it was Valentine’s Day, the 14th. And I was in a rose dress. So I think it made those kinds of headlines because of that. I certainly wasn’t a princess or anything (laughs). I had my temper tantrums, bad days and good days. And because there wasn’t social media, I think I got away with more than most people did.

Fox News: In the past, you’ve been very open about your battle with depression. What keeps you going?
Hamill: I think I can credit a lot to having access to fine physicians, listening to my body and knowing what’s going on with it… I was really lucky to have people who helped me when I was going through difficult times… I probably took a lot of my health for granted as a kid because let’s face it, we all do. And I feel pretty great right now so I can’t really complain.

Stirling Elmendorf Photography

Dorothy Hamill today.  (Courtesy of Dorothy Hamill)

Fox News: What do you miss the most about the Olympics?
Hamill: Being fit (laughs). I took that for granted. I was certainly doing what I loved and it was my passion. But because it was my passion, I didn’t think of it as exercise. But that’s what I miss the most. And also being naïve and being able to just do what I loved it. As I gotten older I can’t really do a lot of those things as far as skating.

I’m trying to find things I’m passionate about now… But I haven’t stopped moving. Whether it’s hiking or walking the dogs, tennis, biking, simple things. Nothing hardcore. I feel like I’m in a really good place for lots of reasons. I’m very happy.