In the dramatic first elimination of the season Tuesday night on “Dancing with the Stars,” Dorothy Hamillwithdrew from the competition because of a back injury.
The ice skating icon, who had to do interviews sitting down with a pack of ice on her back, explained to reporters after the show that a synovial cyst in her lumbar spine made it impossible for her to continue.
The 56-year-old Olympian, the oldest star in the Season 16 competition, told reporters, “Clearly, I can’t [even] stand up on my right foot. It’s very disappointing,” she sighed. “I’m not in a ton of pain, but I’m in enough pain. I’ve got numbness and weakness.”
Dorothy said she made her decision to quit after she hobbled around during her performance of the jive with partner Tristan MacManus on Monday night. The routine only received a score of 15 and Dorothy looked like she was making mistakes because of her injury. The athlete admitted, “Last night I did some soul searching and I spoke to my doctors this morning and I just wasn’t getting better and maybe a tiny bit worse. I just made the decision that it wasn’t fair for me to put Tristan through this and everyone else through this who really want to go on and I don’t want to risk the permanent nerve damage. I’ve got some nerve problems right now and if I don’t take care of it, it could be permanent and it’s not a risk that is very smart to take.”
Watch Dorothy Hamill’s Emotional Withdrawal Announcement from “DWTS”:
Tristan revealed that he and Dorothy had a heart-to-heart talk on Tuesday morning. “I had a feeling that someone made a decision that I wanted her to make weeks ago, so I kind of prepared myself for it,” he said. “I was relieved, not in a negative way, but because I think it was the right decision. It was a decision that I wanted to make before but it wasn’t my place to. So we found out this morning — then I obviously knew what was going to happen [on the show].”
The pro dancer said he had not wanted Dorothy to perform on Monday night but the fact that she did “tells an awful lot about her character.” But the injury meant she had little rehearsal time. “I wasn’t able to even try and learn the jive until two days ago,” Dorothy said.
The star said the cyst might have developed because of her years of ice skating. “At my age, I’ve had a lot of body slamming on the ice over the years and it’s a degenerative thing that happens. Probably the cyst has been there a long time judging from the pictures, and actually, when I saw the pictures they were surprised I hadn’t noticed it before.”
It is not clear yet how Dorothy’s injury will be treated, but she said, “Surgery is a last resort. It’s not a difficult surgery, apparently, but my doctor’s going to be back in town on Friday and I have an appointment to see him so being conservative, [I’ll probably get] a lot of physical therapy, exercises and doing all the things that one is supposed to do for their spine which I don’t do, I guess.”
Although injuries occur on every season of “DWTS,” celebrities rarely have had to drop out. In Season 7, however, Olympic volleyball champ Misty May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles tendon during dance practice and had to withdraw from the competition. And politician Tom Delay bowed out during Season 9 when he suffered stress fractures in both of his feet. Because Dorothy decided to leave, it meant the stars in the bottom two, Lisa Vanderpump and Victor Ortiz, were spared and avoided elimination this week.
Dorothy plans to cheer on the rest of the Season 16 stars. She vowed to be in the audience next Monday with friends and family. “I’m rooting for all of them,” she said.
Watch Tuesday Night’s Full Results Show Below: