French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis held up as best she could.
If the world saw Papadakis giving her all with partner Guillaume Cizeron at Pyeongchang Winter Games, skating live on NBC Sunday night, it also saw more than she ever wanted to show.
Alas, Papadakis’ costume proved not nearly as strong as she was, coming apart behind her neck just seconds into her routine, compromising the top’s structural integrity.
The wardrobe malfunction would result in brief exposure of her left breast not only on live global TV but reportedly on video screens in the arena. It was, she would later tell reporters, her “worst nightmare happening at the Olympics.“
That Papadakis and Cizeron could get through their short program at all under the circumstances – let alone finish trailing only Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir going into the free dance – speaks to her focus, determination and skill.
“Somehow they did get to the end of the music, but the costume, early on, you could tell she kept trying to keep the top of her costume in place the rest of that short program,” NBC announcer Terry Gannon said as the French skaters completed their routine.
“I can’t even describe, not only how distracting that is, but just how disappointing it is that they had to perform that program with that distraction for themselves,” NBC analyst Tanith White, a 2006 Olympic silver medalist, said. “It’s just not the kind of thing you want to have to worry about in competition.”
“They are such exceptional skaters. But unfortunately that was distracting throughout the entire program and it hurt them in their technical execution, which is really where they shine. They are such a strong team. I’m just heartbroken that this even had to be part of their Olympic story.”
NBC edited video of the exposure for the overnight rerun of its prime-time coverage as well as its online clips.
Papadakis, 22, and Cizeron, 23, each said they were aware there was a problem within the opening notes of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” at the start of their routine.
“I felt it right away and I prayed,” Papadakis said. “That was all that I could do. … I told myself I don’t have a choice, I have to keep going, and that’s what we did and I think we can be proud of ourselves to have been able to deliver a high performance with that happening.”
Historians will point out the original Olympians in ancient Greece competed in many events naked. The world and Olympics have changed a bit since then.
Ice dancing, however, apparently is fraught with peril when it comes to these incidents, what with the style and makeup of the outfits and the movement and physical forces at play.
Flashy U.S. skater Adam Rippon recently said, “There’s no such thing as a wardrobe malfunction, only a wardrobe opportunity.” But not everyone’s sequins reflect well in the light.
Last week in the team competition, South Korea’s Yura Min, who was born in California and has duel citizenship, spoke of being “terrified the entire program” after a critical clasp in back came undone early in her short program performance with partner Alexander Gamelin.
NBC’s White said she, too, had experienced a wardrobe problem, “but not to the degree” Padadakis did. “By the end, she was having to hold” her top up.
“It’s just very upsetting,” White said. “I don’t even have words. It’s just not at all what we expected in this moment.”
Remember how American Tonya Harding freaked out and asked for a restart of her routine in the 1994 Olympics? All she did was break a lace on one of her skates.
“They have the most sublime skating quality,” White said of Papadakis and Cizeron. “It looks completely effortless despite the difficulty of their choreography. Both the patterning, the partnering, it’s all very complex. And all things considered, they still did exceptionally well.”
All that separates leaders Virtue and Moir from Papadakis and Cizeron is 1.74 points. They’re the only couples with more than 80 points going into the free dance, a strength of the French duo. So gold clearly remains within reach.
“It’s just frustrating to miss a few points because of a costume issue,” said Cizeron, 23, referring to moves that were compromised in attempting to maintain modesty. “That’s not what we get ready for when we train. I’m still proud that we managed to pull out a program like that even with a difficulty like this.… We have all our chances to win. We’ll just do our best.”
Despite all that has gone down, he and Papdakis still have a chance to sew this up.