Constant beeping around male costumes is too distracting, but "vibrate" mode helps skaters relax.
XCEPT FOR THE athletes' choice of music and the sound of skates flying across the ice, the Vancouver Olympic figure skating surface is silent of all else, including gaydar. "That's by design," says one Olympic skating coach.
"If our competitors didn't turn their gaydar to vibrate, you'd be hearing loud, rapid beeping like crazy," the coach says, "and obviously we can't have that kind of distraction during competition. Our figure skaters work too hard to see a triple axel go sour just because someone is wearing sequins and satin."
The relatively new invention means a whole new set of challenges for today's skaters. "I never had this problem, thank heavens," says ex-Olympic champ Scott Hamilton. "I've seen skaters drop in a heap nowadays, just because their gaydar was inadvertently left on 'beep' during finals. What a needless tragedy."
To the untrained observer, the obvious question is, why not just turn gaydar off, and make it a checklist item before going on the ice? The answer, it turns out, is that gaydar set to "vibrate" confers some benefits the older generation of skaters never enjoyed.
"We found out by accident that our skaters relaxed more during their programs if their gaydar was set to 'vibrate,'" the coach says. "Since it's basically going off the entire time, it's like having a vibrator under your costume. I tried it once myself just for laughs, and I pulled off my first triple axel ever. I was quite pleased with myself, if I do say so."
Now that word has gotten out in Vancouver's Olympic Village, other sports' competitors are none too pleased with what they consider an illegal type of performance enhancement.
Says one ice hockey player named Vladislav from Team Russia, "I do not possess the gaydar instrumentation, however I am also competing on the ice. I must perform it with my superior skills, and not to rely on the enhancements. This gaydar I believe should be banned from Olympics forever. It is my logical conclusion."
His friend, Sergei, however, thought of another option. "Perhaps it is time for us to wear the sequins and the tassels upon our uniforms. Then our gaydar also could be activated! We are winners today already, but we can be relaxed! It would not hurt us!"
Team Russia's coach, while not completely opposed to the idea, has his limits.
"We can try tassel, maybe," he says, "but sequinthis is enhancement on the male that I cannot arrange."
© 02.17.10 Kate Heidel