Dorothy Hamill announced Tuesday night that she is backing out of 'Dancing With the Stars' on the advice of her doctor.(Photo: Adam Taylor, ABC)
(USA TODAY) -- The day after her shocking departure from Dancing With the Stars because of a back injury, ice legend Dorothy Hamill was still feeling the pain - in her heart.
"My injury is still bothersome with the pain and numbness that go with it," Hamill said in an e-mail interview Wednesday with USA TODAY. "But I'm really feeling a huge loss and sadness."
In one of the most dramatic moments in Dancing history, Hamill appeared on the stage just before fellow contestants - boxer Victor Ortiz and reality star Lisa Vanderpump - were going to find out who would be the first person eliminated from the show.
Hamill, who already had been assured of a spot to dance for the next week, then said she would be bowing out of the show because of the injury. Her departure stopped the elimination process.
"It could cause irreparable nerve damage," Hamill said on stage. "And it would be completely unfair of me to stay in this and have any of these people go home."
The Olympic champion, 56, was the oldest competitor in DWTS' 16th season. During the intense rehearsals early on in the show, Hamill said she was beginning to feel some back pain.
"My neck has always hurt. But with these heels, my lower back is starting to bother me," she told USA TODAY in early March.
The pain and numbness worsened. Hamill was able to rehearse for only two days last week with partner Tristan MacManus. After consulting with doctors, Hamill was advised to stop the dancing and keep off the skates.
"My next big project is to get my back and spine better," Hamill says. "I don't know what that is going to entail. But I have the best team of doctors to advise me. So it isn't a glamorous project. But it will be a full-time commitment. With any luck, I will be able to skate again. And maybe even dance."
If she has a full recovery, Hamill writes, she hopes to return to the dance competition. "If I get better and Dancing With the Stars would have me, I would come back in a heartbeat," Hamill says.
She also expresses gratitude for her "special" partner, MacManus: "They don't make better human beings than Tristan."
John MacColl, Hamill's husband of more than three years, said his wife was "deeply saddened" about the decision. While Hamill had shown strength and grace onstage, she allowed for deeper emotions in private.
"She's a strong person," MacColl says. "But she was emotional like anyone else would be. Let's leave it like that."