Figure Skating Gets Ugly

Johnny Weir, of the United States, skates Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006 in Turin, Italy during the 2006 Turin Olympic Winter Games. Extreme is the politest way to describe some of the duds on the ice. For every elegant costume Sasha Cohen or Buttle wears, there are about eight so tacky Britney Spears wouldn't touch them.
There's something very bad going on in figure skating.

Not the new judging system — no one understands that well enough to know if it's good or bad. Not the abundance of techno-pop music. Not even the exit of Michelle Kwan.

No, it's much, much worse. It's Halloween on Ice.

Some of the skaters have been wearing enough Day-Glo to light up a small village. Tattered numbers that look like ragbag rejects. More fringe, sequins and sparkles than even a circus act would find acceptable. And colors so wild they're not even in Crayola's 64-pack.

"What I find pretty much unwatchable is all the (stuff) that's on the costumes," said Jef Billings, a longtime designer who has dressed Peggy Fleming, Michelle Kwan and Sarah Hughes, as well as Canadian Jeff Buttle, the men's bronze medalist.

"You need to wear the costume; the costume shouldn't wear you," said Billings, also director and costume designer for the Smucker's Stars on Ice show. "If the costume is overwhelming, either visually or physically, that's what you're looking at. I think that's the problem with some of the extreme costumes that are out there."

Extreme is the most polite way to describe some of the duds on the ice. For every elegant costume worn by skaters like Sasha Cohen or Buttle, there are several that are so tacky that even Britney Spears wouldn't touch them.

In the pairs free skate, Tatiana Volosozhar wore an aqua-blue dress with filmy, lighter-colored wisps coming off it while her partner, Stanislav Morozov, was dressed in brown. Maybe they were trying to portray their "Conquest of Paradise" program with him as the ship and her as the sea.

Sweden's Kristoffer Berntsson's free skate costume made him look like a purple mummy — if mummies did velvet. Kevin Van Der Perren of Belgium wore a red, black and silver number with more sparkles than a Vegas showgirl. And what about Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" made silver medalist Stephane Lambiel think zebra print?