'My worst nightmare’: French ice dancer’s wardrobe malfunction broadcast around the world

Gabriella Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron still managed to keep things together through most of their Latin short program, producing a score of 81.93 that left them second behind Canadian stars Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron kept focused despite Papadakis' wardrobe issue and managed to put up a score of 81.93, second best to Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (83.67).


Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron kept focused despite Papadakis' wardrobe issue and managed to put up a score of 81.93, second best to Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (83.67).

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—They had been playing a strategic game of no-see-um. But now the world has seen a whole more than had been intended.

The French ice-dance team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron made a tactical decision not to participate in last week’s figure skating team event. An odd choice, most observers agreed, but they presumably didn’t want to show judges — or rivals — what they had before the individual competition.

Unfortunately, because of a wardrobe malfunction during Monday’s short-dance segment, Papadakis ended up revealing an eye-full.

It was a half-Monty full-breast display when Papadakis popped out of her flashy costume midway through the routine — flashing plenty — captured in close up by the Olympic broadcasting feed that supplies footage for TV coverage around the planet. The camera stayed glued to the poor young woman who was in no position to attempt a tuck adjustment in the midst of a midline step sequence.

Entirely too much coverage of the un-covered.

“The French had a little problem with the costume,” said their coach, Patrice Lauzon. “That’s too bad because you don’t want the performance affected by the costume. It’s not under your control, so it’s not a fun thing.”

Papadakis realized immediately that she was skating exposed to the judges and the cameras and the crowd at the Gangneung Ice Arena.

“It was pretty distracting, kind of my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics,” Papadakis told the Associated Press. “I told myself, ‘I don’t have a choice. I have to keep going,’ and that’s what we did. I think we can be proud of ourselves being able to deliver a great performance with that happening.”

But surely not how the 22-year-old had envisioned making her Olympics debut.

A highly unusually occurrence, given that Papadakis had trained in her costume — a kind of dress rehearsal — all week with no issues. The fringed bodice of the dress is actually snapped into place and then further sewn closed on her. Inexplicable, the centre did not hold.

“I felt it right away and I prayed,” Papadakis said. “That’s about what I could do.”

“There were some snaps on her neck and it was sewn also and it just got undone,” explained co-coach Marie-France Dubreuil, who is married to Lauzon. “So Guillaume is holding her by the neck. He probably ripped it on the way up.”

Sure, blame the man. There’s a whole lot of that going on these days.

“You know, sometimes in competition you have a little bit more adrenalin and more power in your body than you normally have,” Dubrueil continued. “It’s very unfortunate but I must say I don’t know any other girl who would have finished the performance the way she did, even with the top completely undone. I mean, she has nerves of steel. Guillaume tried to keep the top at a place where she could keep going. It was amazing teamwork they did out there today. I mean, that’s a real testament to their hard work and training.

“Even with that being a huge distraction, they still managed to pull of 81-something points.”

Eighty-one-point-ninety-three, to be exact, second-best score for the two-time world champions, behind Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

There was consternation and indecision in the French team’s camp when they saw what was un-raveling. “Do we scream and stop the music?” Dubreuil had asked of the support squad. “What do we do?”

But forfeiting five points for a stop and restart would have been disastrous for the duo chasing the Canadians — who are also their training partners in Montreal — for gold.

“Gabby and Guillaume looked at each other and made a decision to keep going regardless.”

The upside, noted Dubrueil, was that the incident hadn’t occurred in the couple’s free dance “where there’s a lot of upside-down lifts.” Papadakis would have been literally hanging out of her costume, trailing an exposed mammary.

But let this, perchance, be a lesson to ice-dancers, who have adopted increasingly elaborate and risqué outfits.

Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver, for example, trotted out a new scarlet number for the Olympics, with a bias skirt that sits snugly on her narrow hips, leaving much of her midriff exposed. How she managed to keep it from sliding off is a trick of the trade. “You can ask my dressmaker, he’s a magician, truly. I don’t know. It just stays. No secrets here, no glue, no tape.”

The International Skating Union sets stipulations for competition apparel — 40 per cent of the upper body must be covered. But nobody has approached Weaver with a tape measure. “Nope, not yet. And then we’d have to get the surface area and, you know, you’d just have to do a lot of math.”

Weaver and Andrew Poje, who had a small bobble in their swizzles, are sitting eighth, heading into Tuesday’s free dance.

The third Canadian duo, Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, actually incorporate a bit of fashion flair into their short program — halfway through the routine, she tugs on strips that that unfurl his sleeves into an accordion of ruffles, a touché gesture toward the mandated short program theme of Latin American music and rumba step patterns.

They’re in ninth spot.

Amidst all this melodrama, Virtue and Moir emerged as a clear cut above the pack, with their splendid routine performed to the Rolling Stones, the Eagles and Santana scoring a new short dance world record of 83.67.

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Canada's Scott Moir compete in the ice dance short dance of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 19, 2018.


Canada's Tessa Virtue and Canada's Scott Moir compete in the ice dance short dance of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 19, 2018.

Ice-dancing together for two decades, the duo — gold in Vancouver, silver in Sochi, three times world champions, a title they wrested back from the French last year after taking two seasons off — had the crowd and the judges in the palm of their hands with their electric, energetic and expressive routine.

“The whole premise of our short dance this year is transferring Latin ballroom dancing onto the ice,” said Virtue. “The storyline isn’t quite as complex as our free dance is. It’s more movement based and really trying to get that message across, as if you were watching a ballroom team compete. We’re really trying to bring people in with us and hopefully have some fun.”

After losing the Grand Prix final to the French team in December — they actually won the free dance portion but couldn’t make up the gap after the short — they and their posse set about making changes to the program to squeeze out every point possible.

“As well as that sensual, sexual feeling in a short dance, what you do have is a tone of athleticism,” said Virtue. “Once you start, you gotta keep going. We were really trying to drive the power and speed more today. We knew we’d need that against the French.’’

They’ve set and reset so many world records that it’s almost become ho-hum. “The score, kind of cliché as it is, it’s just an exclamation point,” insisted Moir. “We skate for the feeling. It’s something, to go out on that stage, for us, with that amount of pressure. People assume that we know how to handle it because we’ve been doing it for so long. That’s not the case.

“I probably felt more nervous today, probably in the top three of my career. And to go out there, to connect with each other, to be able to perform and execute, is really why we came back. As well as the nerves today, I felt a little bit of relief, because this is what we’ve been working for, just to have a shot.’’

Black costumes, by the way, encrusted with gold applique.

And not a single Swarovski came detached.

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