Robert Dominic Ventre II
Staff WriterThe Olympic games feature the world's most dedicated and talented athletes, exhausting body, mind and soul for a chance at the fabled gold. Among these athletes are hockey players, bobsledders, track runners, snowboarders and more, all vying for glory by running themselves ragged, pushing their physicality to the limit, and bearing the pain with a grimace or concealing it with goggles or masks. But one set of competitors is dealt the added blow of having to maintain a stunning appearance and a dazzling smile on top of their athletic prowess: the Olympic ice dancers. Canadian ice dancer Mitchell Islam said in regards to the added pressures of his sport, “Talking to some of the Olympians we’ve met here, I brag that’s the hard thing about our sport. We’re just as tired as any other endurance athlete gets doing their sport, but we have to look pretty when we’re doing it. It’s a little tougher.” Even more important than the sport's pageantry or costumes, performers must maintain a rigid smile as they make their way along the ice, regardless of pain, exhaustion or the actions of a spiteful spectator. Because of this, Islam and his ice dancing partner, Alexandra Paul, were tasked with analyzing videos of their performances for hours on end, as well as observing their “performance faces” in studio mirrors to become more familiar with them. “You don’t want to think about how your face looks during the program,” Paul remarked. “You want it to just be how you feel.” What results are eerie bouts of rehearsal at practice rinks, where ice dancing Olympic hopefuls circle 'round the ice with plastered smiles that never falter despite what might go wrong. American siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani may have provided the most demonstrative example on February 17th when, during the “Man in the Mirror” segment of Monday night's Michael Jackson program, Maia's skirt caught on her brother's shoulder and tore away, forcing the siblings to utilize some hasty improvisation to conclude their performance. Despite the unfortunate setback, the duo ended their routine with a smile. As his sister fought to hold back tears, Alex remarked, “We’re just grateful to be here. We’re excited to have experienced this together. We’re going to look back in five, 10 years, maybe a week from now, and just really smile.” Dancing partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White brought home the gold on Monday, February 17th, providing the United States' with its first-ever gold metal in ice dancing.
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