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IN THIS SPORT, SEEING THE NAKED TRUTH IS INEVITABLE.

Byline: PAUL OBERJUERGE

TURIN, Italy - Get ready for the inevitable, America.

An ice-dancing wardrobe malfunction.

``It's happened to almost everyone,'' said U.S. skater Jamie Silverstein, who added that she is one of the exceptions. ``I'm not too well-endowed, so I've been lucky.''

With ice-dancing costumes getting ever skimpier, and with intricate systems of hooks and straps holding up those little scraps of clothing ... well, the chances of a revealing error of the Janet Jackson-at-the-Super Bowl sort are climbing.

``Sex sells,'' said Silverstein, 22, referring to itty-bitty costumes. ``It seems to be the trend, I think, with the way all our media is going, for better or worse. I don't know if I fully endorse it. But I guess that's what people like to see.''

Some of us assumed there were, oh, backup systems for those teeny dresses. Body suits, maybe. Underwear?

It ain't necessarily so, American skaters said after the original dance portion of the competition Sunday night at the Turin Olympics. Apparently, the planet is a lot closer to topless ice dancing at any given moment than we know.

Silverstein skates with Ryan O'Meara, and she said a former partner of his showed the judges a bit more than she intended. ``I don't know if I want to talk about that,'' she said, laughing. ``I've seen breasts come out. It's a little embarrassing.''

Melissa Gregory, 24, conceded she is a dancer who has suffered the dreaded wardrobe glitch.

``Oh, yeah,'' she said, blushing slightly. ``Oh my gosh, it was really bad.''

Before the U.S. Championships a few years ago, she wanted a piece of chiffon added to the back of a red dress ``to make it more flow-ey.''

``It had a halter neck, and it was backless, really low in the back,'' she said. ``I'd been wearing it all year and it was fine.''

She said she didn't know what the dressmaker changed, ``but he did something with the straps. He said he wanted to make it look better. I didn't think anything of it and I just took it to the nationals and I didn't try it out again because I'd been wearing it, and everything was fine.

``So when I got to nationals, the straps on the back that were holding it up here were loose, and it rode down and my ...,'' she paused, ``was exposed.''

She laughed nervously. ``That was really bad. And in the middle of the program I kept going like this,'' she said, demonstrating how she was tugging up/holding up the front of her dress. ``But I kept (skating). Why, I don't know.''

The next question: Is wardrobe malfunction a scoring deduction?

Gregory laughed. ``I think it should have been. If it wasn't, it should have been. But I didn't do it on purpose. It was so embarrassing and horrible.''

She said a Web site exists with video clips of ``a bunch'' of ice-dancing's most revealing moments. ``I guess I'm on it, but I haven't looked,'' she said.

Ice dancing holds a curious place in the Winter Olympics program. It is so frou-frou, so showy, as to make the rest of the figure-skating competition look like sumo wrestling.

Silverstein said she needs an hour to get her game face on. Makeup, hair, enormous eyelashes she glues on that once accidentally stuck to her cheeks. ``Unlike other skaters, we're out there in full makeup, even for practice,'' she said.

Silverstein is rooming, at the Athletes Village, with a U.S. speedskating coach and she feels as if ``she's judging me, every morning, watching me put on all my makeup. Like, who is this silly girl?''

The program Sunday was Latin-themed. The dancers did the rumba, samba, mambo and cha cha, and hot 'n skimpy seemed to be the order of the day for the women, bare chests for men.

Gregory wore a very small costume she described as an ``orange, sexy bra-dress,'' pulling down her jacket to give it another look, then pointing out the intricate system of straps and hooks that keep it in place. ``This goes around, this hooks here, this goes around ... so there's a lot of stuff hidden that you can't see.''

Well, as it is supposed to be.

Costuming is a big part of ice dancing. Athletes, coaches, family members, everyone gets involved.

``It's a big production,'' Gregory said, ``because if you feel good in what you're wearing you definitely go out and perform better. And you want something that fits the character (of the program) so you both can enjoy it and people can understand what you're doing.''

The emphasis on costuming, in addition to what seems to be the utter mystery of scoring the dance, sometimes makes everyone else at the Olympics wonder if this is really a sport at all.

Denis Petukhov, Gregory's partner and husband, said he has no doubt about the answer to that - even though he was nearly bare-chested (a look Gregory said ``I really like.'').

``I can definitely say it's a sport,'' he said, ``because it takes a lot of muscle, just like the other sports. The lifts, the skating.''

And don't forget the fear of failure. The fear of costume failure. These ice-dancers are living on the edge of being, well, exposed. Get ready, America.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Jamie Silverstein and Ryan O'Meara compete for U.S. Sunday.

Mark Baker/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 20, 2006
Words:896
Previous Article:TEXTING FROM TURIN.
Next Article:U.S. DOESN'T TAKE THE FALL ICE DANCE DUO IN LINE FOR FIRST MEDAL SINCE '76.


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