The 1980 Winter Olympics were supposed to be the greatest experience of Tai Babilonia's life.
She and partner Randy Gardner were the favorites to win a gold medal in pairs figure skating. But unknown to Babilonia, Gardner had suffered a pulled groin muscle, and as the pair was warming up before the competition, Gardner fell twice and was unable to continue.The disappointment of that night, combined with a hectic performance schedule and personal life, sent Babilonia on a downward spiral of drinking, drugs, destructive love affairs and a suicide attempt. Her story comes to television in "On Thin Ice: The Tai Babilonia Story" Monday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 2.
Rachel Crawford stars as Babilonia, Charlie Stratton as Gardner and William Daniels as Nicks.
While it's a move about an ice skater, it's not a movie about ice skating.
"There is good ice skating in it, but it's the story of a girl and how she and her family deal with her problems and with her skating career," Babilonia said in a phone interview. "Some of it will be hard to take."
Her problems began long before the disaster at Lake Placid. A painfully shy and withdrawn child, she nonetheless pushed herself into the performance world of skating.
Introduced to partner Gardner at the age of 9, she was "literally too scared to hold his hand" while they skated.
But she pushed herself to the top of the skating world. "I wouldn't say I was the greatest athlete around, but I had a lot of drive at an early age," she said.
What Babilonia didn't have was the ability to talk with others, even those closest to her.
"It wasn't the skating that caused my problems," she said. "I never learned to deal with myself or others. I didn't know how to say I'm tired and I want to stop.
"A lot of it had to do with my family and how I was brought up. We tend to keep things to ourselves . . . that just doesn't work for me."
Babilonia "doubled" as herself in the skating sequences and served as a consultant on the movie, spending the entire shooting schedule with the crew in Toronto. Tai was usually on the set watching Crawford act out her life.
"It was weird - very bizarre," Babilonia said. "If someone needed a suggestion from me, I was there. But some scenes were too intense. I couldn't relive them so I stayed away from the set."
But she wants people to know the movie ends on an up note.
"It shows that you can overcome your problems. That drugs and drinking are not the answers and suicide is a cop-out," Babilonia said.
"I have no regrets. My life is better than it's ever been. And the best part is that after 22 years, Randy and I are still best friends. We still look out for each other, trust each other and really care for each other."