The stomach flu can't ever stop Olympic figure skating champion Sarah Hughes.
Late last month, she spent a few days in bed to get better. But she said she pulled herself together for a Women's Sports Foundation engagement. She headed to Capitol Hill to talk to senators and representatives about getting young women involved in sports.
"Then, I came home and slept," Hughes said during a phone interview from her New York City home. "I didn't want to let anyone down. When I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to honor my commitments. I've been so blessed. I've been so lucky."
Local fans are in luck, too. Hughes agreed to appear at four dates on this season's Stars on Ice tour. One of those dates is Sunday at the Giant Center in Hershey.
"It's completely different," Hughes said of Stars on Ice versus competitive skating. "We're there to have fun, and we want the audience to have fun."
In 2004, Hughes hit the road with the figure skating tour. At the time, she was a lot younger than the other skaters. This time around, she is the same age as most of the other stars. She said she's looking forward to catching up with former competitor and 2006 Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen.
Hughes said she'll skate to "What I Did for Love" from the Broadway musical "A Chorus Line." It was the program she used when she skated at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Salt Lake City Olympics last month.
"I wanted to do something special," she said. "I thought it was fitting."
Hughes explained that the song is about doing crazy things for love. She said she logged hours on the rink during early-morning practices and sacrificed a lot for the sport she loved. But, she added, you don't have to be an elite skater to relate to the song's message.
During the 10th anniversary celebration and sports festival, she hung out with other athletes and fellow gold medalists Scott Hamilton and Kristi Yamaguchi, who helped host the skating event.
Olympic memories from the 2002 night Hughes stunned the world flooded back to her. When the women's free skate started, Hughes was in fourth place, behind three skaters heavily favored to make the podium. But, with a near flawless and technically demanding routine, Hughes leapt into first and won gold.
"Even when I look back on it now, I see how fortunate I was to be part of such a great event," said Hughes, who is now 26. "I had a phenomenal experience."
More than a decade of practice paid off in a matter of minutes.
Hughes grew up five minutes from a community skating rink in New York.
"Everyone in town went here," she said, including her two older brothers, who played hockey.
She knew she didn't want to play hockey, so she signed up for skating lessons. It soon kept her busy, she said. He younger sister, Emily, also started skating and eventually made the 2006 U.S. Olympic team.
"It was lot of hard work," Hughes said. "It's a great way to build self-esteem and confidence."
She was just one of hundreds of aspiring skaters who attended Stars on Ice shows as a youngster. But Hughes lived her dreams.
And, after winning the Olympics at 16, she was able to live her off-ice dreams.
"I always wanted to go to college," said Hughes, who graduated from Yale University. "A lot of skaters don't."
Most athletes spend their college years competing, but Hughes was happy to spend time in a "normal environment" with kids her age. But her medal, of course, brought life-changing fame.
Hughes tried to use it for good - through several charitable organizations.
Next month, she'll be at the Skating with the Stars Gala for Figure Skating in Harlem, a nonprofit that provides young girls with skating opportunities to promote self-confidence, teamwork and physical fitness. In May, she'll attend the Celebrity Sports Night for Abilities!, a nonprofit focused on empowering people with disabilities. She's also working in a book about U.S. female figure skaters.
Her schedule, she said, helped her stay motivated through her brief illness.
"It feels good to be able to do things that I'm passionate about," she said.
- Erin McCracken,
If you go
WHAT: Stars on Ice
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Giant Center,
550 West Hersheypark Drive, Hershey
COST: $27, $47, $77 and $132
DETAILS: The tour is produced by Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton and directed by four-time World Champion Kurt Browning.The tour features silver medalist Sasha Cohen, gold medalist Ekaterina Gordeeva, gold medalist Ilia Kulik and many other champion skaters. Gold medalist Sarah Hughes joins the tour for a few stops, including Hershey. For more details, call 717-534-3911 or visit www.giantcenter.com.
Another event on ice
Disney on Ice presents "Mickey and Minnie's Magical Journey" next month at the Giant Center, 550 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey. Show times are: 7 p.m. April 11, 12 and 13; 11 a.m.,
3 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 14;
1 and 5 p.m. April 15.
Tickets cost $55 for rinkside seats, $47 for VIP and $25 for general admission.
Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse take a musical journey under the sea to visit "The Little Mermaid" characters. They also meet the "The Lion King" characters on the African grasslands and their "Lilo and Stitch" friends in Hawaii.
For details and tickets, call 717-534-3911 or visit www.giantcenter.com.
About Sarah Hughes
The athlete from Great Neck, Long Island, in New York won the Olympic Gold Medal in Women's Figure Skating Feb. 21, 2002, in Salt Lake City, Utah. That night, Hughes became the first figure skater to rebound from fourth place to win the gold medal since the short program-free skate scoring system was instituted in 1992.
Her long program included two triple-triple jump combinations - the most technically demanding Olympic women's skating routine to date. At 16, she became the fourth-youngest Olympic women's figure skating champion and the seventh American woman to win the prize.
After her win, she met then-President George W. Bush at the White House to discuss the plight of Afghan women and children. She was hired as the spokes
woman for General Electric Corp. and produced two NBC prime-time specials about her experiences as a teenage skater. ABC's Barbara Walters chose Hughes as one of her "10 Most Fascinating People of 2002."
Hughes went on to graduate from Yale University. In 2010, she was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
She is now 26 and is involved with the National Center for Disabilities at the Henry Viscardi School, Figure Skating in Harlem, The Women's Sports Foundation and the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.