Tai and Randy: Their
financial lives are injury free
Babilonia and Randy Gardner were the hopes of the U.S. figure skating
team at the 1980 Lake Placid Games, but Gardner's groin injury had
worsened in the month leading up to the Olympics. And when the two
stepped onto the ice for their Olympic warm-up, he could barely
put weight on his bad leg. The pair aborted their Olympic dream
and were dubbed the heartbreak kids of Lake Placid.
They turned pro, but the years following Lake Placid
were unkind to Babilonia. She became depressed, drank heavily and
was dependent on amphetamines. She attempted suicide. Her skating
partner stuck by her, and after she got help, the two together have
persevered. Babilonia, 43, and Gardner, 45, remain close to their
skating roots. They've done numerous shows for Champions on Ice
and appear on other tours. Gardner has also moved into producing
and choreographing for television. He's worked with current skating
stars Viktor Petrenko and Nancy Kerrigan. Babilonia designs jewelry
and skating wear for older figure skaters. They collaborate off
the ice too, recently publishing a coffee table book, "Forever
Two As One."
Bankrate: You've been in the public spotlight
for more than 25 years. Even though you didn't take home that coveted
Olympic gold medal, what do you attribute your staying power to?
Tai Babilonia: I think what happened in 1980
has a lot to do with it. Because we didn't win the gold, people
hooked into that. It showed that we were human, and people remember
that. In a weird way, it put us on the map. We got through it, Randy
got healed and we kept going.
Randy Gardner: We toured a lot and did a lot
of TV work and other things. From the Olympic incident, all the
media coverage brought the public closer, it helped people identify
Bankrate: Do you get tired of talking about
that missed opportunity?
Gardner: At first it was tough because that
was all we talked about, but it's part of our history.
Babilonia: It's our life, and we know we are
so lucky to still be doing something we love. We've been skating
together so long, we're going on 35 years .
Bankrate: Did staying together so long bring
Gardner: Definitely. We did a lot of stuff,
almost every tour that's out there in the skating world. There were
a lot of TV specials offered because it was so unique for partners
to stay together so long. And there hasn't been a U.S. team that
has won the world championship since we did, so that's part of it
Bankrate: How tough were the years after 1980?
Babilonia: They were tougher for me than for
Randy. Everything was so confusing. I was working nonstop. I just
needed to stop. I was acting out. A lot of people weren't happy
with my decision to talk about the drugs, the alcohol and the suicide
attempt. But for me, it was something I had to do, get it out on
the table. It was therapeutic for me. It just showed that I'm not
perfect. It shaped me to be the person I am, the mother I am. I
have an 8-year-old son.
Bankrate: What's different about the skating
world now than when you started out?
Babilonia: There's a lot more money these
days. There's no such thing as an amateur skater anymore, they call
it "eligible." We were happy to get a piece of jewelry
or whatever money, and it just went back into your skating fund.
But now, a lot of the innocence has been taken away. Skaters arrive
at the rink with managers, agents, whatever. We had our parents.
Gardner: It's very good that skating has gotten
so popular and that companies want skaters to endorse their product.
That's all good. But I've seen the dollar signs distract skaters,
and others just go on. It's different now because some of the skaters
look at some competitions and decide on whether to do them based
on the money they'll be paid. I think skaters should just do whatever
competition regardless what the appearance fee might be.
Bankrate: Randy, your company, Randy G. Inc.,
also choreographs nonskating projects.
Gardner: I've been able to diversify into
working with gymnasts, dancers and aerialists, circus type acts
for Sea World. I've realized that all performers are the same.
Bankrate: And Tai, you're in the designing
Babilonia: Oh, my butterfly jewelry, that's
like my outlet, I love it. It's available on my Web
site. I have a clothing line in the works.
Bankrate: How active are you in managing your
Gardner: At first I wasn't that involved with
it, we had accountants and my parents oversaw the process. But as
I got older, I got much more active. Now, I meet twice a week with
my accountant. I'm diversified, as they say, U.S. stocks, foreign
stocks, bonds and cash. Sanford Bernstein handles my retirement
account that I've had for 23 years
Babilonia: I understand it more now, I'm home
more. When I was on the road, the checks would just get sent to
my accountant. Now, I meet with him every week. I own two homes.
When we turned pro, we made a decent living.
Bankrate: So how are your muscles treating
you now on the ice.
Gardner: It's hard, we're in our forties now,
it just takes us longer. If someone wants us to do something, we
need at least six to eight weeks to get ready. We can't just show
up next week and perform. Now, skating for us, it's the joy of doing
it, we don't really do it for the money, but when you get out there
and perform, it's in your blood, and it feels so good.
Babilonia: Everything starts to hurt, and
that's OK. We have more fun with it now because we do less and we
appreciate it more.