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pyeongchang 2018

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France compete during the Figure Skating Ice Dance Short Dance on day 10 of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 19, 2018.Maddie Meyer

When the dress of French figure skater Gabriella Papadakis slipped out of place during her ice-dance short program on Monday, the wardrobe malfunction raised eyebrows at the Olympics – and around the world.

More than a few television viewers probably thought to themselves, that sort of mishap doesn't happen every day in the prim and proper world of figure skating. But as the commentators gasped, rival skaters winced in sympathy and social media lit up with hot takes, the gaffe managed to overshadow something else: the virtual dead heat that has emerged for the ice dance gold medal.

Heading into the long program on Tuesday, the French skaters are locked in a battle for gold with Canadian champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir that is too close to call. In spite of the dress slip, fewer than two points separates the two teams.

"It was my worst nightmare coming true at the Olympics," Papadakis said after the skate, in which a clasp holding up her green and gold costume broke, allowing the dress to slide down, momentarily exposing part of her chest to the television cameras.

"It happened in the first seconds of the program. I had no choice than just keep going. I felt it right away and I prayed, that's about all I could do."

Ice dancing is no stranger to scandals, but usually they are of the judging variety. While figure skaters often encounter costume problems on the ice, most of them pass unnoticed to the audience. Skaters are experts at smiling through routines, which includes hiding any wardrobe problems that arise.

Figure-skating costumes are often cleverly sewn on top of a see-through nylon base layer that helps keep the dresses in place. So when a skater wears a deep plunging neckline or a provocatively low-cut back that looks bare on TV, sometimes that's just a mirage.

But the dress Papadakis debuted for her short program lacked that kind of backup support, and when she and partner Guillaume Cizeron began their routine, the clasp broke and the top of her green-and-gold costume slipped down.

But for all the shock value the malfunction had, the score the French skaters managed to achieve in spite of the dress problem has set the stage for an intense competition in the long program.

Virtue and Moir, Olympic champions in the ice dance in 2010, broke their own world record in the short program, with a score of 83.67 on Monday. That topped their previous high mark of 82.68, set at Skate Canada International in the fall.

Papadakis and Cizeron managed to score 81.93, putting them in second place. A mere 1.74 points separate the world's best ice-dance teams before the long program.

"We have a lot of work to do tomorrow and we expect we'll have the butterflies flying again," Moir said afterward.

The scores also indicate that the low marks handed out during last week's ice dance in the team competition were not an indicator of how the individual event is being scored.

Though no skaters complained, several countries remarked offhand that they thought the judges were particularly tough in grading the ice-dance short programs in the team competition, despite relatively clean routines.

Papadakis and Cizeron chose not to compete in the team skate, deciding instead to focus on their individual event. After skating the short program, Cizeron suggested the mishap cost them marks as they tried to get the program back on track.

"It was hard to stay concentrated," he said on Twitter.

Several skaters expressed sympathy for the French, including Canadian skater Meagan Duhamel, who won a bronze medal in the pairs event with skating partner Eric Radford, and a gold with Canada in the team event.

"I'm sad for them that this happened at this moment," Duhamel told reporters. A dress problem during a routine "can be such a disturbance mentally," she said.

Costume malfunctions on the ice are not unheard of, but typically skaters encounter them in practice when they run their competition ensembles through a dress rehearsal of sorts, often having them tightened and tailored prior to an event.

South Korean ice dancers Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin told reporters that they nearly ended up in a similar situation during the team event in Pyeongchang, when Min's dress became unhooked. But the skaters were able to finish the routine without any issues and have since had the dress altered.

– With files from Reuters.

We challenge five-time Olympic medalist Charles Hamelin to show off his sketching skills under race-like conditions. Video originally published in 2018.

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