Figure skaters Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia, who dropped out of the Games Friday night, may turn professional and join the Ice Capades rather than defend their world championship title next month, it was reported today.
But Gardner's father Jack and the skater's coach, John Nicks, vehemently denied the report. "That's not true," Jack Gardner said of the ABC radio report.
"There's absolutely nothing to it," said Nicks, who works for the Ice Capades. "Randy and Tai will be staying in the village for the rest of the week and then they'll resume training for the world championships."
Babilonia and Gardner insisted Saturday that they would return to training in order to face the Soviet Union's Irina Rodnina and Aleksandr Zaitsev in the world championships in Dortmund, West Germany.
John Chanin, director of the ABC radio network, said the couple would pass up the world championships, "not because of (the groin) injury to Gardner but because they feel since they didn't skate in Olympics, it would be better for the future to retire as unbeaten world champions and continue on as professionals.
"They fell it would be commercially advantageous not to risk further injury or stains on their reputation."
Switzerland's Erich Schaerer, fresh off a gold-medal performance in two-man bobsled, turned in the fastest run in today's four-man trials, letting the rest of the field know he is serious about sweeping the Olympic bobsled competition.
Schaerer recorded a 1-minute 2.43-second ride on the 1,557-meter course at Mount Van Hoevenberg during the first day of training since the two-man race for gold last week.
Although he posted the single fastest clocking in today's practice runs, Schaerer's time was nowhere near the subminute performances that are expected to be necessary to win the four-man gold medal next Sunday.
The American sled driven by Bob Hickey of Keene, N.Y., posted the seventh fastest time of the day, 1:03.75. Hickey's team includes former Olympic hurdling champion Willie Davenport, Jeff Gadley and Jeffrey Jordan.
Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov of the Soviet Union continued to waltz away with the ice dancing competition, building a tremendous lead after the compulsory dance and the original set pattern today.
Linichuk and Karponsov, two-time defending world champions, were favored overall by all nine judges. They picked up nine ordinals and 101.28 points.
Hungarians Krisztna Regoczy and Andras Sallay, an outgoing couple warmly received by the capacity crowd of 8,500, were second with 18 ordinals and 99.72 points. Third were Irina Moiseeva and Andrei Mnenkov of the Soviet Union, former world champions who won the silver medal at the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck. They had 26 ordinals and 98.16 points.
Both American couples stayed in the top eight of the 12 competitors. Judy Blumberg, Tarzana, Calif., and Michael Seibert, Washington, Pa., moved ahead of Stacey Smith and John Summers, the latter from Vienna, Va., into seventh place. The newcomers to world competition had been eighth after Friday's first two compulsory dances.