Ashland's own world-class figure skater to help with fundraising

World figure skating champion Tai Babilonia plans to lend her star power to the success of Ashland's ice rink.

Babilonia moved to Ashland a little more than one week ago and found the ice rink soon after, declaring it "just like Rockefeller Center" when she visited it this morning with city 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, with five consecutive U.S. senior pairs titles. Babilonia was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1991.

She moved from Los Angeles to Ashland, 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 of time," she said, shaking her head no, "things start to hurt."

Instead she said she will focus on The Tai Line, her clothing 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."

She is also raising a 13-year-old son, Scout Butler, who will join her to live in Ashland half-time. He is a homeschool student and competitive tennis player, she said.

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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