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Overexposed: Gabriella Papadakis and Winter Olympic wardrobe malfunctions

At recent Games there have been a series of wardrobe woes and costume mishaps … with the French ice dancer being just the latest

The French ice artists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have made Winter Olympics features for all the wrong reasons – due to a closet breakdown that left Papadakis overexposed on the ice.

“I felt it right away and I prayed,” Papadakis said after the top of her costume became unhooked and slipped. “It was pretty distracting, kind of my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics. 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.”

The US broadcaster NBC, mindful of the furore when Janet Jackson was accidentally exposed at the Super Bowl half-time show in 2004 and a water polo player suffered similar misfortune at London 2012, issued a statement explaining “once a competitor’s brief wardrobe issue became evident, we purposely used wider camera shots and carefully selected replays to keep the issue obscured”.

Papadakis and Cizeron are far from being alone in the history of costume disasters at the Winter Olympics. Indeed, their misfortune isn’t even the first one on the ice in the Pyeongchang Games.

On day three the South Korean skater Yura Min’s costume came undone at the back. She later tweeted: “Despite the wardrobe malfunction, I had an amazing time competing in my home country! I promise to sew myself in for the individual event.” She also posted a video clip of her joking about the way she had covered herself up, with the single word: “Oopsie.”

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It isn’t just in the ice rink that athletes experience problems. At Sochi in 2014 Henrik Harlaut’s trousers headed south during qualification for the men’s freestyle skiing slopestyle.

Fortunately his underwear held up – with the Swede claiming he was used to performing like that anyway: “I don’t find it difficult. I’ve skied like that the past 10 years. It’s been my style for a while. I’m pretty comfortable like that.”

It was also a costume mishap at Sochi that introduced the Winter Olympics to the phrase “Powerbelly”. The Canadian bobsledder Christopher Spring found the uniform he had been given to compete in was no match for his tummy, leading him to tweet: “I tried on my race suit ahead of tomorrow’s 2man Olympic race and its a little … er tight. #powerbelly”

The textbook “wardrobe malfunction” usually involves involuntary exposure, but the speed skater Olga Graf at the the Sochi Games is the exception. Having just secured bronze in the 3,000m, Graf absent-mindedly unzipped the front of her skating suit, having forgotten that she wasn’t wearing anything underneath.

As the realisation dawned, she clutched the suit closed and seemed to apologise to the crowd. “I totally forgot, we have very good suits and they are very tight. You just want to breathe and you want to take off your suit,” she said afterwards.

Even the smallest of costume mishaps can severely impede an athlete. At Vancouver 2010, Japanese figure skater Nobunari Oda became the victim of his shoelaces. Halfway through his free skate they broke and came undone. He approached the judges and was given three minutes to re-prepare and continue but the damage had been done.
“It came untied, it’s my fault, I feel guilty for myself for doing this. I will try to make sure it does not happen again,” he said afterwards. He had been in fourth place going into the routine but slipped to seventh.
With that in mind, Papadakis and Cizeron can perhaps feel lucky about their own moment in the spotlight. Somehow the French couple kept things together in Pyeongchang, producing a score of 81.93 points that left them second behind Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.