Alexander/Splash News Online
August 16, 2009 12:30 PM

During the five years he took off from ice skating, Olympic champ Scott Hamilton has had his hands full. Not only was he busy raising two sons with wife Tracie – Maxx, 19 months, and Aidan, 5 – he was also fighting a debilitating pituitary gland tumor and overcoming infertility by self-injecting hormones.

So what prompted Hamilton, at 51, to return to professional ice skating?

“This is a life change. Every time I’ve had a health challenge in the past, skating has brought me all the way back,” Hamilton tells PEOPLE.

Hamilton, who also overcame testicular cancer in 1997, decided that the time had come to get healthier for his family. “I want to be in shape when my youngest son is ready to play sports,” he says. “It means a lot to me that my family will get to see it and my oldest son will get to see me perform.”

Hamilton will make his return to the ice at his annual cancer benefit, the Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative, at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Nov. 7. Currently, he’s scheduled to skate to a pair of numbers backed by a live performance from his favorite rock band, Cheap Trick, and the Cleveland Pops Orchestra.

“This has been 10 months in the making,” says Hamilton, who began skating in earnest late last year. “I had lost all my muscle tone and endurance and I looked like a bag pipe.”

But thanks to the skating and a thrice-weekly ply metrics and weight lifting sessions, the 5-foot-3-inch skater has shed 15 lbs., and aims to drop another five to reach his skating weight of 125 lbs. He also altered his diet, eliminating all sugars and most carbs – including his favorite treats, peppermint stick ice cream and his mother-in-law’s banana pudding.

“It’s lean meats, vegetables and fruits now,” he says. “It’s tough getting young,” he says laughing. “It’s a crash course, and I’ve been crashing a lot lately on the ice.”

Hamilton also has committed to doing a TV special with producer David Foster and Olivia Newton John. And somehow, he’ll manage to find three weeks in February to provide commentary for the figure skating events at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

His upcoming performance will also mark the 25th anniversary of his gold medal winning performance at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

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