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Figure Skating Legend Tai Babilonia Talks About US Pair Skating


Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner In 1979

Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner In 1979

Photo by Tony Duffy - Getty Images

Tai Speaks Out:

Figure skating legend and world pair skating champion, Tai Babilonia, took the time to talk to About.com's Guide to Figure Skating, Jo Ann Schneider Farris, on May 8, 2011. This article sums up Tai's thoughts on what can be done to improve pair skating in the United States.

What can be done to improve pair skating in the United States?:

What is going with pair skating in the USA is just not working. Something has to change.

I believe that the "powers that be" (those who care about US pair skating at US Figure Skating) need to reach out to those of us who did well at pairs in the past.

I believe US Figure Skating should bring together Randy & I, Kitty & Peter Carruthers, Ron Ludington, the Kauffmans, Melissa & Mark Militano, Johnny Johns, Peter Oppegard, Jenni Meno & Todd Sand, Mr. Nicks, and JoJo Starbuck & Kenny Shelley.

Those who did it before can help revive what we once had that made U.S. pair skaters great. We can help. We can advise. It is stupid on the part of the "powers that be" not to use us!

Why do you believe it is so important that pair skaters stay together?:

Commitment to a figure skating partnership is what pair skating is all about. Once a team decides on being a pair, the two need to become one. That can't be done without years and years together.

Randy Gardner and I had no idea when we were matched together as young children that we would do what we did, but we wouldn't have done what we did, that is, win a world title and win the US title five times in a row, without being committed to one another through thick and thin. There will be tough times. There will be bad seasons. There will be bad days. I want those who do pairs today to not give up!

What are your thoughts on ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White's success?:

Davis and White's success shows that commitment works. They are exquisite! They must have had their ups and downs through the years, but they are an example of what sticking it out together can do. My wish is that some US pairs will follow their example.

What do you think about all the pair skaters that quit?:

It makes me so sad and it makes me angry. Just when I get to know the names of a winning pair, they quit. I just can't stand it. There's a part of me that still cares.

What I see on the ice these days is NOT true pair skating. The unison is missing. The perfection is missing. All I see is two skaters doing moves. If skaters can persevere and stick it out through the good and bad times, a beautiful pair will emerge.

Should pairs think about the financial rewards related to staying together?:

Figure skaters may not think about their future during their years of training, but one of the benefits of staying together as a pair can be that a professional career in our sport will be part of a champion's future. Randy and I still do some professional appearances together. Once a pair team is no longer one, those opportunities disappear. Skaters can help pay back their parents for some of the costs related to training through a professional skating career. The financial rewards should definitely be considered.

What can you offer to the pair skaters of today?:

I want to help in any way I can. For example, even though I'm not a coach, I know the "secret" on doing a great death spiral or how to have perfect unison in side by side spins, and I can give today's pairs a few tips.

I know how to interact with fans and I know how to keep fans excited about pair skating. I can give advice on getting through the tough times. I can just "be there" if a pair skater needs encouragement or a shoulder to cry on. I really care!

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