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Interview With Randy Gardner

Photograph of World Figure Skating Champion Randy Gardner

Fresh off the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships, it is my absolute honor to present my first interview with a World Figure Skating Champion, the brilliant Randy Gardner. With partner Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner is a five time U.S. pairs champion, the 1979 World Figure Skating Champion, a 3 time World Professional Champion, an Olympian and sought after choreographer. Tai and Randy are skating legends and two of my personal favourites and I am absolutely sure you will enjoy my interview with him as much as I did:

Q: You won five consecutive U.S. national titles and after two bronze medals, won the World Championships in 1979. What is your favourite memory from your competition days? The toughest challenge?

A: One of the most memorable events was our first Olympic Games in Innsbruck.  We were young, the newly crowned U.S. Champions, and on our way to the Olympics Games. Almost too much to handle.  But we got swept up in all the excitement of being there.  We finished fifth, but that whole experience set us up for the remainder of our competitive career.

Q: You and Tai competed in many professional competitions throughout your career, winning important competitions like the World Professional Championships. What are your thoughts on professional and pro-am competitions? 

A: The pro Competitions are a great avenue for professional skaters to expose new and different things for skating.  With more open rules, you will see more unusual things and more creative approaches to skating - a very necessary thing these days.  There really aren't many available right now, but I'm working on a new concept for professional skating now which will hopefully create a new and exciting vehicle for professional skaters to work and for the skating audience to see something new and different.

Q: What were your favourite programs you ever skated?

A: "On Golden Pond" and "Love".

Q: I adored your program to "Love" by Kenny Loggins when you and Tai made a comeback in 1996. What made this program so special?

A: I think it was an interesting time in our career and our lives where we were mature enough to handle the number, yet, make it work for both pro competitions and shows.  We used that number a lot that season. I still remember the choreography in it. I set it!

Q: What was working with John Nicks like?

A: Oh, he was an amazing coach. Still is. It was a very close, intense relationship.  He was strict, no-nonsense and a very talented man that turned his expertise into great coaching and mentorship skills.  I'm so glad for his success right now with Ashley Wagner.  She's lucky to have him.

Q: What are your thoughts on U.S. skating today? How have things changed since you competed?

A:  Well, IJS has changed the sport, not only in the US, but worldwide.  You can see the system going through growing pains right now and trying to settle in to what it's suppose to be - a fair and transparent system.  However, the public doesn't understand it, let alone some coaches and skaters, so you are losing an audience, which makes it frustrating for all involved to see.  If the powers that be remain open-minded and shape the system to conform to the needs of the sport and the athletes, we should be OK.  Hopefully this is a work in progress.

Q: What kinds of projects are you involved in these days? 

A: My latest project was Liz Manley and Friends in Ottawa.  Great cast and a very successful fundraiser that I choreographed for Liz and company.  And another new endeavour is a brand that's been created for me (with my help) called Randy Gardner's The Rink.  It's an informational, educational and entertaining place for the skating world and it's followers to take part in through digital media interaction, as well as, being entertained by some of my dearest and most talented friends in the business. And then, this summer I'll do my clinic, Performance Plus, in Nantucket and other locations across the country.

Q: What is working with Liz like?

A: I just love Liz Manley! She's the real deal. She had such a passion for the show we did it helped me to be inspired in making it. She pulled together an amazing cast; Elvis, Nancy Kerrigan, Duhamel and Radford, Shawn Sawyer and the talent went on and on.  And we did all for Liz. We all would do anything for her.

Q: Having a connection on the ice and skating TO the music are undoubtedly two of the key elements to good pairs skating. Which pairs teams inspire you?

A: Right now, I'm a big Meagan and Eric (Duhamel and Radford) fan. They have a great chemistry, great look, maturity and offer a lot of originality through their talent. He's a pianist, as well, which I think helps in their musicality. I'm looking forward to seeing the U.S. pair teams as they develop this year and once they settle in with their new partners.

Q: What's your favourite song?

A: I'm on an Adele kick right now, "Rollin' In The Deep". Looking forward to her new album, whenever that will be.  Also, Moody Blues "Wild".

Q: The way figure skating is presented to the public has certainly changed, with less television coverage and things like Ice Network, Internet broadcast feeds and YouTube bringing skating to a wider audience over the Internet. Do you think we'll see figure skating return to its "glory days" of media coverage (as in the nineties)?

A : For skating to return to what it was it needs a 'shining star,' one (or team) that the public gets to know, watch grow and change (like we did with Michelle Kwan), and one that changes the sport in some way while they are in it as well as after they have left it.  It's a tough responsibility, but one that can be done. It has been before.

Q: In addition to being a figure skating legend yourself, you have skated with and worked with legend upon legend of the sport - Dick Button, John Curry, Robin Cousins, Janet Lynn, Toller Cranston, Dorothy Hamill, Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov... Who is the most interesting person you've worked with?

A: Wow! Those names!  Almost impossible to answer.  I must say that Dick is someone who is the go-to guy for me.  He has such love and longevity in skating, it's hard to imagine the skating world without him, which I hope will never happen. He and I have had some great discussions on skating, it's history, it's future, it's present.  I've learned to listen to him, voice my opinion carefully if it's different than his, take in all that he has to say which never ceases to amaze me.  Then next time we're together he'll remember our conversation and exactly what I had said, then we'll build on that for our next chat.  Very fun guy and so, so interesting.  I want to be him when I grow up.  Him or Richard Dwyer!

Q: What motivates you every day and what is the most important thing you've learned in life? 

A: My motivation comes from the people around me, both the professional and personal relationships.  There is always something to share and always something to learn everyday from everyone. I also like to look forward to doing new things each year whether it be something in a different location, a different type of venue or with a different type of clientele.  All those things keep you on your toes and motivated. I've also learned that there is a solution to every problem.  Don't sweat it,  the answer will come.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":