February 20, 2018 / 8:36 AM / 6 months ago

Olympics-Figure skating-'Korea power' buoys hometown ice dancers

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - As if getting to the Olympics was not hard enough for South Korean ice dancers Min Yura and Alexander Gamelin, the two were briefly caught up in a diplomatic fuss over their free dance music and then suffered a wardrobe malfunction.

But on Tuesday all the stars aligned as "Korea Power" from a boisterous crowd at the Gangneung Ice Arena helped the two perform a lyrical, haunting free skate honouring the country they represented.

With skating costumes evoking traditional Korean dress - a far cry from the skimpy attire worn by most of the other skaters - and using a song based on the popular Korean folk ballad "Arirang" for their music, the two skated cleanly to an enthusiastic reception.

"The programme was a breeze, I've got to say, from beginning to end I wasn't tired at all, I was very focused," Min said.

"But at the same time it almost felt like I was out in the audience watching myself...Because I was giving them our performance and they were giving me their support and they were like with us on the ice and I was up there with them."

Getting to that point was not easy.

First, the two had to cut some words in their free dance song - "Arirang Alone" by Korean singer Sohyang - to avoid offending Japan over a reference to a set of islands disputed by Japan and South Korea.

Then, during the team competition, Min's costume for the short dance came unfastened, prompting her to sew everything together before the individual competition on Monday.

The two finished 18th out of 20 ice dance teams, but the roars of the crowds made up for everything.

"You kind of felt this Korean energy," said Gamelin after the two skated their free programme. "All of our practices have been good and everything's going so well for us here in Korea.

"We've never had a competition where the crowd support is so unbelievable, so having this experience at the Olympic Games - it's not just another competition but the Olympic Games - I'll never forget." (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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