KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Swedish skier Henrik Harlaut's pants nearly fell off in the qualifying round of the ski slopestyle competition, coming perilously close to flouting public indecency laws and showing off a particularly fashionable pair of blue stretch pants.
Though no Cossacks were called to the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park to investigate the incident, Harlaut vowed to toe the edge of decency with baggy ski pants that sag down below his knees and expose his buttocks to the Sochi Games – and the world.
"I've got suspenders," Harlaut said. "So they're always secure."
The 22-year-old Harlaut, considered one of the best freeskiers in the world, finished seventh in the competition and first in underwear exposure. It is unclear whether additional security was called in to monitor the situation, though based on the reaction of on-course announcers who expressed shock at Harlaut's fashion sense, the backlash could have been far worse than it was.
[Photos: Skier nearly loses pants]
Between Harlaut's gray pants – which looked to be at least a XXXL, maybe larger – and his head of dreadlocked hair he hasn't cut in at least four years, he surely was the most colorful skier among the 32 who hit the slopestyle course in the sport's Olympic debut. His pants' death-defying journey up and down his backside ended with them in the down position after his stuck his second run in the finals for his highest score of the day, 84.4.
Other riders backed Harlaut, contending that his pants are no public hazard but merely an expression of a dude who just loves to ski.
"He's always been the most baggy," Norwegian skier Per Kristian Hunder said. "It's just his style. And people love it. We have a pretty wide stance. I guess we could all ski with our pants down to our knees."
As pants-sagging rules around the world tighten – Wildwood, N.J., last year banned busting a sag on its boardwalk – Harlaut is little more than a freedom fighter using the greatest sporting stage possible to make a statement. And that statement is that skiing with your pants about to fall off is all right.
"I don't find it difficult," he said. "I've skied like that the past 10 years. It is what it is."
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