When Tanith Belbin brought home the ice dancing silver medal from a chilly ice rink in Torino, she was just warming up. Upon arrival back in the States, she found fans lauding her impressive Olympic performance almost as much as they were touting her first-place romp through ESPN's Hottest Female Athlete poll.
Page 2's Mary Buckheit had a chance to catch up with the 21-year-old sexy skater. Here's what this year's beautiful babe had to say to her adoring masses.
Buckheit: Congratulations, Tan!
Belbin: Thank you, thank you!
Now that you're the queen, how far would you be willing to go to have the sexiest costume on ice?
Well, I'd have to say I'd go pretty far -- I mean, I already do! The truth is, I feel pretty comfortable with myself. I don't have a problem showing skin. But, you know, it's all in the name of the sport. I'll do just about anything to attract an audience to figure skating. I don't know that we're necessarily in a "skin-to-win" competition, although it seemed like we were this year with the Latin costumes that were out there and mine was right up there with the rest of them. There wasn't much fabric to that one!
Have you ever had a wardrobe malfunction?
Oh, of course. I think that every ice dancer has to admit that, at some point, we've all had something go wrong. There is always room for some kind of malfunction with the costumes that we wear and all the moving about.
Does Ben [skating partner Benjamin Agosto] have any say in what you wear, or are you the boss?
Actually, at the Olympics, I had several options laid out and Ben had the final say on the red one we chose to wear. I thought it was the skimpiest costume I had ever put on, and I wasn't sure if that's really what I wanted to do. But because we were doing such a sensual dance, Ben said, "I want to dance with the red dress!" And he explained himself and it made sense.
Usually, my costumes use a lot of that nude flesh-colored material. The kind that is supposed to simulate nudity and skin but it's just beige material.
This dress, the red one that we chose to go with, had none of that, and we could have real skin on skin contact. It worked out great, and it was really Ben's decision.
That Ben, he really took one for the team there, sacrificing all that unruly fabric.
Ha-ha. Yep, he just wanted what was best for us on the ice!
Do you wear as many sequins off the ice as you do on?
Which are you more likely to wear on your day off: a comfy hoodie or designer labels?
I'm somewhere in between, I suppose. I have the most inconsistent style of anyone I know. I basically play dress-up every day. I'll go from something very bohemian or gypsylike, then the next day, I'll feel like jeans and a hoodie and then the next day I could feel like something very businesswomanlike. I need to switch it up, all the time! The only thing that stays the same is that I like to wear high heels at all times!
You're comfortable in stilettos, but how are you on a pair of Bauers?
How are you on black blades, sans toe pick?
You know what, I've never put on a pair of hockey skates! Can you believe that? They don't look too comfortable to me, though. Not as comfortable as heels! Ha-ha. I don't know, it's funny. Because I'm not a very girlie girl, but I do embrace my femininity quite a bit. I'm a guys' girl, but I love being a woman. That's the best way I can put it, I guess.
Well, the ESPN.com guys voted you the sexiest, hands-down. Is there anything you do -- any habits/issues/vices, anything -- that could possibly turn them off?
Well, the thing is, I consider myself a pretty open-minded person and surround myself with all sorts of wonderfully crazy and colorful people. If you want to be with me, you need to be ready to accept the eccentricities of both me and my loved ones. My life is never boring.
They accept you, all right. How did you find out you were named ESPN's queen of hotness?
I first found out about this in an e-mail from a fan who heard the contest announced on a radio station back home in Detroit. I guess the radio station was telling their listeners to get to ESPN.com and vote and I guess it worked! The e-mail I received said, "We did it, we voted, we won it for you!" That was very cool. That's how I found out I won. I was excited.
I didn't even know anything about the poll until I was in the medical room this one day and Chad Hedrick -- the long-track speedskater on the U.S. national team -- was on the table next to me and he said, "You know you are on ESPN's Hottest Female Athlete poll, right?!" I had no idea! I'm glad he told me about it!
Who would you have voted for?
Hmm. David Beckham is the hottest athlete I can think of. I like basketball players, too. Was Dwyane Wade on there? I like him.
Yep, Soccer Spice won it last year, and Dwyane was on there this year.
Actually, when I asked your king in hotness, Matt Leinart, who he thought was the hottest guy out there, he gave props to D-Wade, as well. Dwyane came in second to Matty.
Dwyane's a cutie.
And as for the ladies?
I think Anna Kournikova is probably the hottest female athlete.
She won it a few years ago, so she was out of the runnings this time around. You beat out Maria Sharapova, though.
Yeah, good job outta you. What would you say to her if you saw Sharapova on the street? Can ice dancers talk trash?
Oooh, sure! I mean, that would make for a pretty good catfight. But I feel like I'm a lover, not a fighter. Plus, I feel pretty good about myself and the win. I'm happy, so I wouldn't be too quick to get vicious and take the claws out.
Which of our former winners do you think would make the best ice dancer: Anna K, Jennie Finch, Heather Mitts or Amanda Beard?
Anna Kournikova is Russian, isn't she? And I swear Russians can dominate any sport they want. Ha! And plus, in skating, I think you get free points just for being Russian, so she's got an automatic in right away! She's tall and slender geez, the more I think about it, she's a natural.
Anna and the rest of our past winners have all been married, engaged or involved with other elite athletes. Are you following suit?
I'm single! I'm on my own, but I can understand how that would happen.
Athletes are attracted to other athletes; that seems so natural to me. You need someone who understands the sacrifices and commitment necessary to be at this level. You want your companion to understand what it's like and what it takes to live a sport. It makes sense to me that those women would naturally gravitate towards other athletes who can identify with their lifestyle.
and they have hot bods.
Yeah, that helps!
Does your training regimen allow for any of the following sweet treats from the motherland: Tim Horton's doughnuts, poutine or Molson Dry?
I try to stay as healthy as possible foodwise, but if I'm going to have a beer, then it's not going to be light! I'm a Killian's Red girl.
Does the Olympic Committee have rules against what kind of music you can play during your skating routine? How come we never hear any Jay-Z or Bubba Sparxxx?
Well, for the final event for the ice dancing competition, it's entirely your choice as to what music and style you skate to. How-ev-errr, you have to be considerate of who your judges are. Since most of our judges -- well, first of all, they are obviously from all over the world, and second, they are all approximately around 50 years old. So
So you're saying the judges wouldn't appreciate the Hova?
Yeah. Probably not quite as much as we would. It's unfortunate, and it's something that we struggle with. It's so funny that you bring up hip-hop because this has been on our minds lately. See, there is a portion of ice dancing called original dance. Every year, for that segment, there is a set rhythm -- a type of music that is set that everyone has to skate to. At the Olympics and over the last year, it was set to Latin rhythm. This year, in our post-event meeting, Ben and I were pushing so hard for hip-hop to be the rhythm selection for next year. It would be so great. We feel like figure skating needs to evolve and ice dancing needs to stop being so old-fashioned. We need to bring in a new crowd and a young audience.
Lake Placid, put your lighters up!
Yes! That's what I'm talking about! Unfortunately, I can say this did not go over so well at the meeting. But we would absolutely love to work in some hip-hop. We think it would be so good for the sport, although we'd probably be penalized if we tried anything unconventional.
Speaking of skintimacies. Tell us a deep dark sexy secret about life in the Olympic Village.
[Bursts out laughing] Nooo waaay.
C'mon! Why not? We want to know what goes on in there.
Mmm-hmm. I bet you would. Nope, sorry. What happens in the Village stays in the Village!
Fine. How about Hollywood; who are the sexiest folks on the big screen?
Matthew McConaughey and Angelina Jolie and I've got to give honorable mention to Jessica Alba.
Are there any celebrities who could convince you to go on "Skating with Celebrities" as their partner?
Hmm. Good question! Umm, I guess, if he asked, I would do it for Dave Matthews.
Right on! Me and my firedancer tattoo really appreciate that answer.
All right! Isn't he the best?! I'm a huge fan of his, and his music means so much to me. If he would serenade me a little bit in the process, I would do just about anything for that man.
I knew I liked you, Tanith. What's your favorite Dave song?
It's a three-way tie between "Crash," "Lover Lay Down" and "Say Goodbye."
Ooh, sassy. Three right off my "Dim The Lights" playlist, but could you skate to any of those?
I could skate to absolutely any of his songs!
As a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S., which did you study for more: your citizenship test or your driving test?
I studied harder for my citizenship test than any other test in my entire life. I would never do anything to jeopardize obtaining my American passport. I could not be more proud.
Which movie have you seen more times: "Green Card" with Gerard Depardieu or "The Cutting Edge" with DB Sweeney?
Every skater has seen "The Cutting Edge" at least twice in their lives!
Is there any city in the United States as cool as Montreal?
Boston is my favorite city in the U.S. It's big enough where there's always something to do but small enough that it feels familiar and homey, and of course, the city is beautiful.
Which NHL player would make the best ice dancer?
I think any Russian would have a good head start, maybe Sergei Fedorov.
Would ice dancers ever go on a labor lockout?
We couldn't afford it!
[I get the "last question" cue from Tanith's agent here and panic under the pressure for the perfect closer.]
Umm, what would Brian Boitano do?
Ahahaa. He's the one you should ask that sequins question to! I think he beads out just about everything he owns!
Actually, I'm glad you finished with this question because it brings up a good point. Figure skating is a great sport to be a part of if you can sit back and laugh at yourself at the end of the day. And that's like anything else. I think the worst thing that you can do is take yourself too seriously. I'm just happy to be here.
Mary Buckheit is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.