Maia Shibutani

How Athletes Overcame Famous Olympic Wardrobe Malfunctions

The Winter Olympics have been home to some infamous clothing bloopers


Athletes aim to wear gold, silver or bronze when they compete at the Winter Olympics. Sometimes however, they end up wearing less than they came in with.

Wardrobe malfunctions are common at the Winter Games. Tight skate suits, baggy snowboarding apparel and sharp blades lead to a variety of clothing setbacks – and consequences.

Some wardrobe malfunctions can be played off since they took place before or after an event. Others have gotten in the way of athletes in the heat of competition, leading to problems and, in some cases, perseverance.

Here’s a look back at some notable wardrobe malfunctions in Winter Olympic history and their impact on the athletes’ final results:

Gabriella Papadakis, 2018 PyeongChang Olympics

Gabriella Papadakis did not let an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction keep her off the podium at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

Around 10 seconds into her and Guillaume Cizeron’s short routine, the clasp on the back of the French ice dancer’s uniform broke. While she attempted to keep her top from falling down, her left breast was ultimately exposed by the end of the routine.

“It was my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics,” Papadakis said afterward. “It happened in the first few seconds [of the routine]. I told myself I didn’t have a choice; I have to keep going.”

Even with the mishap, Papadakis and Cizeron finished second in the short dance. The pair set the world record in the free dance the next day to earn the ice dance silver.

Yura Min, 2018 PyeongChang Olympics

Papadakis was not the only ice dancer to deal with a wardrobe malfunction on the ice in PyeongChang.

Yura Min, an American citizen competing for South Korea, endured a similar issue during the team competition just over a week earlier. The clasp on her back was undone almost immediately.

“This is my first Olympics, our first program and if my top were to come down, that would have been a disaster,” she said. “I was very nervous that the entire thing was going to come off.”

Min and her partner, Alexander Gamelin, finished the routine and earned a ninth-place score.

Alex and Maia Shibutani, 2014 Sochi Olympics

Alex and Maia Shubutani took their sibling connection to a new level at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

During their free dance, Maia’s dress became attached to Alex’s costume during a lift and her tights ripped apart. The brother-sister duo had to figure out the issue on the fly to prevent any further deductions.

“When I tried to come down again, it got stuck,” Maia said. “We had two options: put the lift down and wait four seconds or do what we did and get through it.”

The Shib Sibs earned a score of 90.70 en route to a ninth-place overall finish.

Olga Graf, 2014 Sochi Olympics

This one is more of a slight brain malfunction than a wardrobe malfunction.

Russian Olga Graf earned the bronze medal in the 3000m speed skating competition. In the aftermath of the race, she waved to the crowd and then began unzipping her skating suit only to realize she was not wearing anything beneath it.

“I totally forgot,” Graf said. “We have very good suits and they are very tight. ... You just want to breathe and you want to take off your suit.”

Henrik Harlaut, 2014 Sochi Olympics

Henrik Harlaut showed off some colorful stretch pants on the slopes at the 2014 Winter Games.

The Swedish freestyle skier saw his pants slip a couple of times during competition in Sochi. He said that he preferred baggy uniforms and even had a contingency plan.

“I’ve got suspenders,” Harlaut said. “So they’re always secure.”

Harlaut’s definition of “always” – just like his pants – is pretty loose. 

He wound up qualifying for the final in slopestyle and finished 11th overall.

Christopher Spring, 2014 Sochi Olympics

Christopher Spring’s behind-the-scenes photo at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was worthy of some belly laughs. Luckily for the Canadian bobsledder, this was before his two events. 

“I tried on my race suit ahead of tomorrow's 2man Olympic race and it's a tight. #powerbelly,” he posted in a since-deleted tweet.

He wound up finishing fifth in the two-man bobsled and 11th in the four-man.

Tonya Harding, 1994 Lillehammer Olympics

Less than two months after the assault of Nancy Kerrigan, Tonya Harding took the ice for the ladies’ singles event at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, but not for long.

Shortly after starting her free skate program, an emotional Harding went over to the judges to display her broken lace on her right skate. After deliberating, the judges awarded Harding a redo.

“My lace broke right on the warmup there,” she said after her second attempt. “We had to change it and we got a lace that was too small. We tried lacing it and we couldn’t get all the holes though. I tried to go out with what I could because you only have a two-minute time after your name comes through.

“There was nothing there. There was not enough string to hold me on anything.”

Harding finished eighth overall in the event, while Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul won gold and Kerrigan earned silver.

Sergei Ponomarenko, 1984 Sarajevo Olympics

Soviet ice dancer Sergei Ponomarenko found himself in a hairy situation at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

During the routine, Ponomarenko’s costume split and revealed his stomach.

“But you know something, it’s always seemed kind of difficult to get into skating, and you can have some embarrassing moments, and I think we see one here,” commentator Dick Button, who had just mentioned how romantic the routine was, said.

Luckily for Ponomarenko and his partner, Marina Klimova, the wardrobe blip happened during an exhibition routine. The pair had already reached the Olympic podium, earning bronze in the ice dance.

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