Figure this? Black girl ice skaters have been in the Olympic Games for more decades than you think. Making history in this dancing-on-ice event however is the one and only Tai Babilonia. She’s RAD indeed…here’s 10 reasons why.
#1 She’s A Part Of Black History
Babilonia was the first figure skater of partial African-American descent to win U.S. and World titles–which was not an easy fete at the time. Breaking down racial barriers would’ve never been possible though without the help of African-American figure skater and coach Mabel Fairbanks; she was the RAD lady responsible for linking Babilonia and Gardner back in 1968. Each one teach one–Fairbanks was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1997 and Babilonia was right be her side.
#2 Age Aint Nothing But A Number
Babilonia was a young contender in the figure skating game, spending her teenage years kicking butts and taking names. Like most professionals, she was hard on herself and at 54, it is evident all her perfectionism paid off. She says she still really enjoys doing death spirals, spread eagles and ina bauers too! Wow!
#3 She Doesn’t Have Commitment Issues
On and off the ice, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner are quite the winning pair. Literally. The pair became five-time U.S. national champions and won the gold medal at the 1979 World Championships.They were medal favorites at the 1980 Winter Olympics, but were unfortunately forced to withdraw due to an injury to Gardner. “The 1980 Olympic experience taught us that on any given day, anything can happen. You keep pushing forward and never look back!” Babilonia told author Priscilla Gilman. Can you say committed? This dynamic duo recently just hit the 45 year mark in their friendship. How beautiful!
#4 Cali Girls Do It Best
As a native sun-soaking FitGirl, I am not surprised to discover that Tai Babilonia was born in Los Angeles, CA. She started ice skating at the age of six and was an instant favorite at the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club. No wonder she was paired with partner Randy Gardner after only two years in the game, making her an eight-year-old phenom!
#5 Mommy 101
If you ask Babilonia what her greatest accomplishment was, she would say without a doubt her son, Scout. He is her one and only child with former husband, Cary Butler. Currently Scout is 19-years-old and is her biggest supporter and cheerleader.#6 Read Up! She’s An Author
“Forever Two As One,” the title of Babolinia and Gardner’s joint memoir was the first hardback to hit book stores, however Tai is currently working on pitching her own autobiography as I type.
#7 Sweet As Can Be
Although Babilonia is not a huge fan of sweets, people are a fan of her candy. With the encouragement of The Candy Factory owner Frank Sheftel, she began designing candies in the shape of pink ice skates and butterflies. How sweet! For more on these treats check out Tai Treats on Twitter. And wait, there’s more…Babilonia also makes jewelry boxes as well as designs figure skating clothes. I see you Ms. Tai!
#8 And She’s Back! The Ice Capades
After 1980, Babilonia joined the show Ice Capades and both her and Gardner went on to have an extremely successful professional careers, skating as special guest stars on the show. They even appeared on numerous skating tours and in countless television specials, and in 1991 both Tai and Randy were inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame!
#9 She’s A Survivor
Speaking of the Ice Capades, the nine month on the road schedule that the show required really played a toll on Babilonia. It was rough both emotionally and physically, causing her to gain over 15 pounds. This was also when the drinking and diet pills started. For the three years she was on the show, both were a constant struggle. What started as a glass of wine here and there eventually morphed into a full blown addiction. She was on thin ice, but she survived. Today she is both sober and healthy!
#10 She Gives Back
While Babilonia does not officially associate herself with being a coach or mentor, the inspiration and support she has given to young figure skaters today is undeniable. For instance she calls 12-year-old figure skater, Starr Andrews her “friend.” Andrews has been the talk of the town ever since her “Whip My Hair” performance back in 2010. “She’s good. And she has it. Whatever it is….” Babilonia recently told Priscilla Gilman. “And so…I’m her friend. I don’t know if she wants to call me a mentor. I’m not quite sure what exactly that is. But I’m her friend who is advising her on what to expect, how to act when you’re at a competition, just the things that I was taught. That’s what I do.”
Robbie Ann Darby (RAD Experience) is a professional FitGirl, Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer in NYC. Follow her sweaty life on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagramfor more fun health and fitness tips!