Awkward Olympic Figure Skating Moments That Were Caught On Camera

From the amazing athleticism of the performers to the glitzy costumes they wear, Olympic figure skating performances dazzle us. According to YouGov Sport, figure skating is the most popular Olympic sport in the United States, particularly among women, 53% of whom follow the sport.

Figure skating has been part of the games since 1908, and surprisingly began as part of the Summer Games. reports that skating found its home in the Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France in 1924.

For a great performance, skater's costume choices are super important. "You're going to live the biggest moment of your life in them," Olympic medalist Johnny Weir told Cosmopolitan. "Every picture of you — it's going to last forever." These custom-made, hand-sewn, often designer-created costumes can cost between $1,000 and $5,000, the outlet reports.

With so much on the line during an Olympic performance, skaters are fortunate to have a team of volunteers to assist with last-minute costume repairs. For the 2014 Sochi Games, five seamstresses lent their expertise to assist skaters (per The New York Times). If a zipper or a strap breaks before a performance, volunteers like these can provide an invaluable service. 

However, once a skater hits the ice and starts a performance, anything can happen. Weir says that if parts of a costume fall onto the ice, skaters could get a deduction. In addition, a wardrobe mishap could create an awkward moment and cause a skater to become distracted and lose focus during the performance of a lifetime.

Ice Dancing costume debacles

Only ten seconds into her ice dancing routine at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, French skater Gabriella Papadakis felt the clasp break on the top of her costume. Despite the distraction of this unnerving incident, Papadakis and her partner, Guillaume Cizeron, finished second in the event. The couple went on to win silver as well as set a world record the next day (per NBC Sports). According to the Guardian, Papadakis' breast was briefly exposed during the dance, so broadcasters stuck with wider shots to help minimize the situation.

Even if a costume component doesn't break, it can still cause a lot of anxiety if it doesn't stay closed. Yura Min, an ice dancer who skated for South Korea at the PyeongChang Games, felt a hook open at the back of her costume right at the start of her ice dance with Alexander Gamelin (per USA Today). Adrenaline and terror loomed large for Min as she tried to keep her outfit on by improvising some of the routine. She made it through, although the couple lost points when she had to readjust the costume after showing some shoulder.

Women aren't the only ones battling costumes that won't stay closed. In the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko skated an exhibition dance in celebration of their bronze win. In the middle of this romantic dance, Ponomarenko's costume abruptly opened to show his stomach (per Slate).

Unexpected visitors and other ice awkwardness

Scheduled skaters aren't the only ones experiencing awkward moments on the ice. Mark Roberts, a known event crasher at multiple Olympics, appeared at the 2018 PyeongChang Games in a frilly pink tutu and a monkey penis pouch. Cosmopolitan reported that Roberts took to the ice wearing the unusual ensemble along with the words "Peace + Love" painted on his chest. He crept onto the ice in black sneakers, slipping a few times. Some of Roberts' previous streaking appearances were connected with promoting brands or websites, the outlet reported. However, the 2018 event didn't seem to have any promotional ties.

Sometimes costumes can interact with each other in unexpected ways, as experienced by Alex and Maia Shibutani at the 2014 Sochi games. According to For the Win, these ice dancing siblings were skating to Michael Jackson's music during a free dance. In celebration of the "King of Pop," the brother and sister were decked out in sparkly black sequins. During a lift where Maia was supposed to flip up to Alex's shoulder, their sequined costumes got stuck together. With some quick thinking, the pair juggled performing and untangling to finish the routine. Their teamwork salvaged both their performance and their costumes. Maia only experienced minimal damage in the form of a ripped left tight.

Strategies for avoiding wardrobe malfunctions

When it comes to preventing skating wardrobe malfunctions, great design is key. As a former figure skater, Vera Wang pairs her design skills with her own experiences. "I understand the physics," Wang told People. "It is an extreme sport."

Skating costumes need to be tough enough to withstand the jumps, lifts, and fast spins that an Olympics performance entails. "The biggest reason for costume failures is strictly an engineering issue," says costume designer Gail Johnson (per Refinery 29). Johnson is a proponent of using nude mesh and nude backup-straps to add support and structure to the costumes she designs. She also suggests that clients put their costumes through a rigorous test several weeks before an important event to make sure they will hold up.

When an unfortunate wardrobe event occurs, everyone's heart goes out to the skater. "Right after that you feel badly for the costume designer," says Pat Pearsall, a costumer for U.S. figure skater Mirai Nagasu (per USA Today). For dresses like Gabriella Papadakis wore at PyeongChang, Pearsall suggests a redundant system. If one closure breaks or opens, the next system will keep everything in place. To add to the mystery of Papadakis' dress, a last-minute fix was made right before she took the ice. Costumer Lisa McKinnon told USA Today that she believes a couple more seconds of repair time should have prevented the issue.