Top figure skaters from the 1980 Winter Olympics and 1979 world pairs champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner will compete against previous Olympic champions and the world's leading professional skaters in the first world professional figure skating championship Dec. 15 at Capital Centre.
In what is intended as the beginning of an annual effort to match the world's top figure skaters against each other competitively, the championship will pit a team made up of the top amateur skaters, who turned professional this year, against the world and Olympic champions who turned professional in the last decade.
Among the competitors will be 1976 Olympic champions Dorothy Hamill and John Curry, 1968 Olympic gold medalist Peggy Fleming and Robin Cousins, winner of a goal medal at the Lake Placid Olympics last winter.
Dick Button, winner of a figure skating gold in the 1948 Olympics and producer of the championship match, said one of the aims of the event is to provide competitive figure skating for former Olympic champions, most of whom opt for noncompetitive figure skating such as the Ice Capades after their Olympic triumphs.
"There has been a gap for the professional skater," said Button. "Dorothy Hamill is a better skater now than she was in 1976," Button said.
Button is putting up $180,000 in prize money that will be divided into stipends of $20,000 for each individual skater or pair on the winning team and $10,000 for each individual skater or pair on the losing team.
Each skater, pair or dance team will compete in three separate programs: a compulsory event that will include required moves, a freestyle set and a new competitive event in which all eight skaters from each team will perform in unison.
Judging the competition will be a group of former figure skating greats including 1960 Olympic champion Carol Heiss and 1972 Olympic skater Janet Lynn.
Joining Cousins, Babilonia and Gardner on the team of recent professionals will be Linda Fratianne, twice world ladies' champion; Emi Watanabe, winner of the Japanese national ladies' title for eight consecutive years, and Charles Tickner, 1978 world champion.
Toller Cranston, winner of three world freestyle titles; Jo Jo Starbuck and Ken Shelly, twice winners of the world pairs bronze medals, and Colleen O'Connor and Jim Mullins, three-time U.S. dance team champions, will join Hamill, Fleming and Curry on the other team.