August/September 2017 SKATING Magazine: Shibs’ Road to Success Paved by Parents’ Support

By Mimi McKinnis

Photo by Joyce B. Chen

Photo by Joyce B. Chen

The road to the Olympic Games is arduous. Every four years, individual athletes and teams pour their blood, sweat and tears into a chance to represent their country on the biggest of stages. Even with all that grueling work, nothing is guaranteed — the stars must align.

One thing is certain, however, it takes a village for anyone to achieve their Olympic dreams. For Maia and Alex Shibutani, that village begins at home with their grandmother, who lives in the same building and watches them on television whenever she can, dogs Lily and Po, and their parents, Naomi and Chris, who have been their rock for two decades.

“We started skating together when we were 9 and 12,” Alex said. “But when we were practicing as singles skaters, we were always on the ice at the same time.”

Photo by Joyce B. Chen

Photo by Joyce B. Chen

Having stepped on the ice for the first time four years prior, the Shibutanis’ partnership originally began as a way for Alex to fulfill a school requirement of participating in a team sport. While Maia and Alex initially developed their skating skills individually, it was their abilities as a team — and their bond as sister and brother — that would ultimately shape an illustrious career in ice dance.

“At one point, their freestyle coach suggested that they try holding hands and skating crossovers together,” Chris, an Equity Research Analyst covering the Biotechnology industry, recalled. “Since Maia and Alex had seen high-level pairs and ice dancers at the [2003] World Championships, they had an idea of what they should do. I remember they were both smiling and laughing right from the get-go. They thought it was hilarious, but obviously exciting and most importantly, incredibly fun. They were clearly trying to do it well, not just joking around or pretending to do crossovers together.”

“They were always incredibly close and were each other’s best friend,” Naomi, a stay-at-home mom, said. “As in any other sibling relationship, there was a bit of playful competitiveness, but they were definitely excited to be skating together. I remember being a little nervous when they first started to try lifts because they were both physically small. I also remember thinking that it was nice that they would no longer be alone when they were competing — they would have each other to depend on.”

Read the rest of the Shibutanis’ cover story on their family and how to get involved in their Olympic journey in the August/September issue.