Retired figure skating champion Tai Babilonia, who recently moved to Ashland, plans to help raise money to improve the city’s ice rink. - Larry Stauth

Retired figure skating champ plans to raise money for rink

A former world figure skating champion plans to lend her star power to the success of Ashland's ice rink.

Tai Babilonia moved to Ashland barely a week ago and found the ice rink soon after, declaring it "just like Rockefeller Center" when she visited it Thursday with city officials and Rotary Club representatives.

Parks and Recreation Director Don Robertson didn't quite agree with Babilonia's high praise of the rink, but he was glad to have her skating and fundraising expertise.

"Tai has been so generous to help us with these things because we don't have a lot of experience with fundraising on ice," Robertson said.

Babilonia retired from a 43-year figure skating career this year after celebrating her 40th anniversary with skating partner Randy Gardner. The pair are two-time Olympians and world figure skating champions. Babilonia was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1991.

She moved from Los Angeles toAshland, where she will focus on launching her clothing line and writing career, she said. She plans to help with ice rink fundraising events similar to the TV show "Skating with the Stars," where visitors can skate with her or receive a quick lesson, she said.

Skating on her own, however, is one thing she will not be doing much of.

"I've been skating for 43 years, and with a partner for 40 years. People think you just go out and do it for fun, but after that amount oftime," she said, "things start to hurt."

Instead, she plans to focus on herclothing collection for adult women skaters and young girls, sold online through Bear Hill Sports, and interviewing former skating legends for International Figure Skating magazine.

"It's interesting because you leave the sport, but you never really leave it," she said. "I'm still involved. It's just my skates aren't on."

The town has just the right pace of life for her, with a skating rink larger than she expected, she said.

"It's exactly what the doctor ordered," she said. "I'd love to be here for the second half of my life."

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