Last season, Scott Hamilton missed the final 10 performances of "Stars on Ice," the show he co-created, when his testicular cancer was diagnosed.
This season, with the cancer in remission, Hamilton intends to skate every performance on the show's 57-city tour. Presumably, the 1984 Olympic champion is taking it easy, right?
Wrong. In this year's 12th edition, which stops at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim on Saturday, Hamilton skates more than he has in any previous show. One number near the end of the two-hour show, a six-minute reenactment of "The Wizard of Oz" in which he plays all the roles, is the longest routine he has ever done.
Hamilton has made some adjustments. "I know that it's Kurt Browning who's doing the triple axels and the triple-triple [jump] combinations now," Hamilton, 39, said last week by phone from a tour stop in San Francisco. "For me, it's the performance, not the athleticism. I'm trying to achieve that."
Hamilton's other major solo number is "With One More Look at You," which reflects his wish during his illness to see an audience from center ice again. He performed the number in Los Angeles last October to mark his return to skating.
"It was dramatic in L.A.," he said. "It's become more happy, more friendly. It's taken on a lighter feel."
Stars on Ice--whose other performers include Kristi Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt, Ekaterina Gordeeva, Rosalynn Sumners, pair skaters Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov, and ice dancers Renee Roca and Gorsha Sur--has long provided its cast members the opportunity to express their feelings.
"That's what skating is," said Hamilton, co-producer with director Sandra Bezic. "You're allowing people to peek into who you are. Any time you present yourself in a personal way, your program will have much more impact."
Such is the case for Paul Wylie, 33, skating his final year with the show he joined after winning the silver medal at the 1992 Olympics. One of his two solo numbers, "Go the Distance" from the film "Hercules," reflects the ups and downs of his amateur career and the successes of his professional one.
"I'd been searching for something to bring everything together--a celebration," Wylie said. "When I heard the song, I said, 'That's it.'
"Everybody says, 'Quit while you're ahead. Go out on top,' but nobody does it," he said. "I'm really trying to do that. I have great memories of skating. I'm sure I will still skate, but I can't fathom touring and competing on a day-to-day basis as my full-time profession."
While Wylie is winding down, Brian Orser, 36, has returned to the show he skated in from 1988, when he won that year's Olympic silver medal, to 1994. He too is skating a personal number, "The Story of My Life," which he first performed in 1988.
"The number celebrates my mom. I always feel she's with me when I'm skating it," said Orser, whose mother died in December 1996. "I'm grateful to have it as a vehicle, to have that expression, even if it is just for four minutes."
Stars on Ice does have a lighter side: Its opening and closing group numbers are set to the music of Led Zeppelin, and there is a spoof on the world of Olympic competition.
And there's "The Wizard of Oz." "Everybody in the audience has grown up with this movie," Hamilton said. "Every single scene brings back a memory they can share with their family."
"Stars on Ice" will be presented Saturday at the Pond of Anaheim, 2695 E. Katella Ave. 8 p.m. $30-$45. (714) 704-2500 (box office) or (714) 740-2000 (Ticketmaster).