“Damn it!” Florent Amodio mutters as he fusses with his new ice skating costume. “I need to sew up the pockets,” he says. “They look too big.”
Poking at the crotch of his trousers, he adds, “It’s not too bad. It’s a bit tight around here,” as he rushes into a nearby washroom, ignoring the sign marked ‘women’, to admire himself in a mirror. “You have to show the best of yourself,” he says. “There needs to be a shiny side that glitters in the eyes of the audience.”
And if there’s one thing Amodio knows, it’s the glitter. His previous season’s Tony The Tiger Meets Tanya Harding outfit caused a bit of surprise even in the not-so-straight world of men’s figure skating. But that’s a thing of the past. As is his Michael Jackson look-a-like outfit that even managed to out-gay the King of Pop’s version. For the Sochi Olympics he’s going with basic back. “I didn’t want any color because I believe that it’s for the skater, not the costume, to bring alive the emotions and to transmit them,” he says.
The shirt of see-through material is studded front and back with glittering Swarovski rhinestones, as are the trouser legs. The neck is open and plunging. His seamstress helped with the designs. “We sketched out some drawings,” he says. “But I already had a broad idea of … what … I … wanted,” he adds, though he notes it’s a struggle to wiggle into the skin-tight shirt. He knows he’d better not add an ounce of weight to his 5’5” frame before Sochi. “Otherwise, it would pop!” He jokes.
It evidently was the right choice in costume. Skating for France in the Team Trophy competition at Sochi, the 23-year-old’s impressive gravity defying moves scored a 79.93, his season’s best. And the rest, as they say, was history as Amodio tangoed into the hearts of gay boys the world over.
Like Brain Boitano and Stephane Lambiel before him, Florent tackles the question of hi sexuality head on. He says he is not gay and ‘prefers’ women. Kinda like Tom Daley’s “Of course I still fancy girls” coming out speech. And as proof Amodio points to his girlfriend, Russia’s Olympic ice dancer Elena Ilinykh. You’d think their romance would be well-documented with pictures plastered all over his Facebook page. But finding a photo of the two of them together is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
A very pink haystack at that. There are few shots of Florent with women unless it’s in a group. There are lots of arm-draped bromantic photos spanning the years, if not genders. And there’s an entire photo album devoted to Nickolai. Well, at least he got the Russian part of his story right.
Still, that’s a step up from dating your coach’s daughter for proof of your heterosexuality, like Canada’s Patrick Chan. And for the girls of the skating world, that’s a good thing. If you are going to spend your life hanging around male figure skaters, you need to perfect the art of being a beard at an early age.
Maybe its those plunging necklines he favors – any shirt he wears automatically becomes a deep V-neck or falls off due to a deep seated fear of having his chest fully covered. Or that his was the first picture shown in Newsweek Magazine’s recent article about gays on ice The Frozen Closet. Or his decision to room with also-not-gay skater Brian Joubert at the 2011 European Figure Skating Championships, which caused fellow skater Nelson Monfort to gush, “… And if they continue like this, it’ll be a wild sex all night …” It’s not surprising that Joubert – who sued his former ‘girlfriend’ for saying he was gay – says he feels less pressure with Amodio’s emergence, “It’s good for me; [the media] are no longer focused on just me.”
Thanks to his opening performance at Sochi, the media’s attention – and the world’s speculation – is firmly on Amodio’ firm little body these days. And that’s a body that has been sculpted to perfection through rigorous exercise over the last nineteen years.
Florent, who was born in Brazil and adopted as an infant by a family from the Paris suburbs, started his career at the age of 4. The first day his mother took him to skate at a group session he impressed the man leading the session, Bernard Glesser, so much that he has been Amodio’s coach for mot of his early skating life. “He had fluidity and an ease on the ice that were remarkable,’’ recalls Glesser of that day.
Nine year later, Florent made his international skating debut. And as a Junior won the 2008–2009 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in his fourth and final season on the circuit. The following year he began skating as a senior, making his Grand Prix debut at the 2009 Cup of Russia, where he placed 9th. He won the French national title in December 2009 and was selected for the Olympic and World team. At the Vancouver Games he finished 12th.
At the 2011 European Championships he won gold at his European debut finishing just ahead of teammate Brian Joubert, the first time since 1961 that the French took the top two spots in the European men’s event. And at the 2011 World Championships, where he only placed seventh, he performed his free skate to music with lyrics, which are not allowed in competition except in ice dance, explaining that it “turned the performance even more into a party.”
The 2013 European Championships saw Amodio land two quads for the first time in his career and a short program score of 89.82 – his personal best – which helped him win the silver medal. After the championships, he skated in 12 shows in two weeks as part of the Art on Ice tour, earning him $6,500 per night, which he poured into a sleek Masarati with red leather seats.
At the following World Championship held in March Amodio didn’t do as well. Unable to bend at the waist and in “enormous pain,” he fell in both his short and long programs and placed 12th, some 50 points behind the champion. Still, he didn’t pull out because he figured the experience would prove valuable. “I did things I didn’t know I was capable of,” he says. And it’s what he’s capable of that has so much of the world on notice.
“You know, I am rather foolish at times and still a little bit of an artist,” he says of the almost military manner he trains under with his new coaches. “I need to be given some limits.” But then stretching those limits is what Florent is all about. For Sochi, he has new costumes, new music, and new routines. For his short program, he worked with double world champion Stephane Lambiel, who is no stranger himself to the gay rumor that plague the men’s figure skating world.
The Swiss hunk too has steadfastly denied he skates for the pink team. Kinda, sorta. But then so did Tom Daley once. And that expose of Lambiel at a gay bar published in the German magazine, Blick hasn’t helped quell those rumors either. Turning to Lambiel for skating advice might be a good idea for Amodio. “That’s the way it is in skating. I need someone who resonates internationally,” he says. Turning to Lambiel for advice on how to not be gay, not so much. But then posting selfies of you and Russian skater Maxim Trankov in the locker room ain’t the smartest move either.
Amodio, with the help of the French federation has put together a new team of coaches for his attempt at a medal in Sochi. He hopes his hard work, over coming recent injuries, and his new costumes will all help him to realize his dream. But it’s a hard road to Gold, often filled with pain. Stripped to the waist on a massage table as he moans, “Aie, aie, aie,” under his breath as his over-worked muscles are squeezed and prodded like pizza dough, he doesn’t look like he’s carrying an ounce of surplus fat on his diminutive physique.
Does it hurt? Florent bleats out a weak “Oui” and moans. Perhaps that’s a sound not only his massage therapist and fellow male figure skaters will hear one day, in response to being asked if he’s gay.