GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir heard the words “wardrobe malfunction” and both of their jaws dropped.
“Oh no,” she said.
“Oh no,” he repeated.
The Canadians didn’t see their rivals skate, because the French pair of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron took the ice right after they did, so it was only through a member of the media that Virtue and Moir found out what happened.
On Monday, on the biggest stage in sport, Papadakis suffered the term that Janet Jackson made famous. It happened on the final dip in her program, when the French skater’s green and sparkly dress that had come undone earlier in her program became even more loose, and her nipple was exposed.
“It was my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics,” Papadakis said, in a news conference. Worse, still, it was replayed in slow-motion on the local feed provided to TV networks.
The 22-year-old could feel the dress coming loose in the first few seconds of their program. “I felt it right away, and then I prayed,” Papadaki said. “That is about all I could do.”
On the sidelines, one of her coaches, Marie-France Dubreuil, saw that dress loosening and thought: “What do we do? Do we scream and stop the music? What do we do?”
It was incredibly gutsy for Papadakis to continue, and she did so because stopping would have resulted in a five-point deduction for the two-time world champions and reigning world silver medallists.
“I told myself I didn’t have a choice and that I had to keep going,” she said. “I think we should be proud we were able to deliver a strong performance with that happening.”
And how. Dubreuil echoed the sentiment.
“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,” Dubreuil said. “I mean, she has nerves of steel.”
She does, and no doubt the costume trouble affected the performance of the French skaters. Papadakis said she was “pretty distracted.”
It would have been impossible not to be. “Instead of dancing and being in the moment, they were just like trying to keep it together,” Dubreuil said. “There was not the freedom of movement that they normally have. The fringe being heavy, as soon as she twizzled or something she felt the top pulling away from her.”
The dress is actually sewn onto Papadakis by a member of the coaching staff, because it has hooks and they sew it in place “to make sure it doesn’t come undone,” said their other coach, Patrice Lauzon. In four or five practices last week, it didn’t come loose. “We will sew it again tonight,” Lauzon said, and no doubt, a heck of a lot tighter.
“She did the right thing,” he said, to continue on. “I’m very impressed.”
For his part, Cizeron did what he could to keep that dress in place. Dubreil figured he ripped the dress when he was holding her by the neck, during their second move.
“It was amazing teamwork they did together out there today and I mean, that’s a real testament to their hard work and training,” the coach said. “Even with that being a huge distraction, they still managed to pull off 81 point something points. I’m really proud of them for doing that.”
Their score of 81.93 leaves them just behind Virtue and Moir, who set a new world record, at 83.67.
“The good thing is it wasn’t in their free dance where there’s a lot of upside down lifts,” Dubreil said. “Everything is pretty vertical in the short dance, even their lift.”