Olympic queen stars in HK ice spectacular

OLYMPIC and world champion figure skater Dorothy Hamill loves Hongkong for two rather unusual reasons.

The weather is cool, and she does not get recognised in the street.

''At my home, in Palm Desert, California, the temperature can climb to 115 Fahrenheit - that's a blistering 46 degrees Celsius, so this [weather here] is pleasant, although it's more humid, of course,'' she said.

''It is also a great pleasure coming to a place where I'm not so well-known. It's not that I mind stopping and talking to people, but it just makes everything take twice as long,'' she added.

The days when Dorothy had to resort to a blonde-wig disguise to slip away unnoticed after her sell-out shows may now have passed, but the elfin looks and bubbly personality remain unchanged.

Back home, her popularity is unchanged, too.

In fact, just last month she was voted America's most popular athlete of all time, overshadowing such personalities as Michael Jordan and Joe Montana.

And this for a woman who last skated competitively 17 years ago, in 1976, that annus mirabilis of her career when all the long years of practice paid off.

Firstly, she claimed the Olympic gold at the winter games in Innsbruck, Austria, where all nine judges were unanimous in their appreciation of her musical interpretation, fluid skating and infectious charm.

Then, she insisted on competing in the World Championships in Gothenberg, Sweden, against the advice of friends and coaches who feared anything less than perfection would tarnish the lustre of her Olympic gold.

With her mind made up, she simply blew away the competition and added the world title to her growing collection of trophies.

Even now, that Gothenberg triumph remains her personal career highlight.

Dorothy Hamill's Independence Day will be spent in Hongkong, with husband, Kenneth Forsythe, the couple's three children, Daniel, Jennifer and Alexandra, and, inevitably, a pair of skates.

Those skates will be used, too. Dorothy is starring in the special ice gala, ''That's Entertainment'', that forms the centrepiece of Cityplaza's 10th annual American Week.

The 45-minute show completes its five-night run this evening at 6 o'clock. Entry is free.

Ted Wilson, manager and head coach of the Ice Palace rink, took a phone call a few months ago from the veteran American skater, Richard Dwyer, a frequent visitor to the territory.

''When Rich told me that Dorothy Hamill wanted to skate here, I thought he was just having me on,'' Ted recalled.

''But he was absolutely serious - and I am absolutely thrilled and honoured that she has chosen to join our Independence Day celebrations here.'' As well as performing here, Dorothy is sizing up the situation before deciding whether to bring her newly purchased ice-show company on a six-country Asian tour this time next year.

Dorothy Hamill International (DHI) has just completed the deal to buy Ice-Capades, the world-renowned company that she skated with for eight years after turning professional.

The revamped company has already conducted market research and discovered the public demand is for full-length fairy-tale productions. Accordingly, the first new production is to be Cinderella.