Maia & Alex Shibutani: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

32


Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Shibutani siblings Getty

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani compete in the Short Dance during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Olympic ice skating siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani, also known as the ShibSibs are two-time U.S. National champions. They’ve taken the U.S. ice dancing circuit by storm — winning a medal at every national championship at the senior level since 2011 (two golds, three silvers, and two bronzes).

They are three-time World medalists (silver in 2016 and bronze in 2011 and 2017) and the 2016 Four Continents champion.

Here’s more about the ice dancers as they embark on their second Olympics after placing ninth in Sochi.


1. They Began Skating Together in 2004

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Shibutani siblings GettyMaia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States celebrate after the completion of their Free Dance Program during Day 4 of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships.

Alex and Maia began skating together in 2004 after attending the World Championships in Washington D.C.

“We were seated close to the ice in the second row, and when the ice dancers came out for their warm up, we could actually feel a gust of wind as the skaters flew by,” Alex told the Golden Skate. “We were so impressed with the artistry, skating quality, and speed of the top teams that we decided to give it a try.”

Their singles coach, Kathy Bird, arranged for them to work with their first dancing coaches Andy Stroukoff and Susie Kelley, the pair who competed in the 1976 Olympic ice dance competition.

That year, the Shibutani’s finished second at the juvenile national. Over the next two seasons, Maia and Alex won both the Intermediate and Novice national titles, and quickly moved up to the junior level for the 2007-08 season.

During the 2010-11 season, they competed on the senior level. In an impressive season, they won bronze at both the 2010 NHK Trophy and the 2010 Skate America, making them the first dance team to medal at both Grand Prix events in its first senior season. They were the first alternates for the Grand Prix final.

The Shibutanis finished second at U.S. Nationals and were chosen to compete at the Four Continents and World Championships. They won the silver medal at Four Continents, and finished third overall to claim a bronze in their World Championships debut.

They are three-time World medalists (silver in 2016 and bronze in 2011 and 2017) and the 2016 Four Continents champion.

They currently train with renowned Russian ice skating coach Marina Zueva (who has also coached two-time World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White) in Michigan.

“Each year and usually before every competition, we are asked what our ‘goal’ is,” Maia said on Team USA’s website. “When it comes to our skating, Alex and I have followed a plan we set in place following Sochi. This past March, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary of working with our coach, Marina Zoueva. Together, we have been through so much.”

Download video Links


2. Maia Was the First To Start Skating at 4 Years Old

The younger of the siblings, Maia, was the first to take up ice skating when she was four years old.

“While we were growing up, our parents wanted to expose us to all sorts of sports and activities including swimming, tennis, and music,” Maia, who is now 23, told the Golden Skate. “We were living in Old Greenwich Conn., and birthday parties involving skating were really common. I immediately fell in love with skating and began taking private lessons.”

At age 7, her older brother followed in her footsteps after exploring other athletic interests.

“When Maia started skating, I would be taken to the rink when she had her lessons,” Alex explained to the publication. “As I was still under the delusion that I would grow to be at least 6’6″ and play professional basketball, skating wasn’t an instant interest for me. However, Maia always looked like she was having so much fun, so I decided to give it a try too.”

Alex credits their close relationship as an advantage on the ice.

Download video Links

“(Our style) is largely based off of who we are as people and the unique relationship we have being siblings,” he told Interview Magazine. “The fact that we’ve grown up skating together for 14 years and that friendship we have as siblings, is something people can feel when we perform.”

Maia has expressed a similar sentiment in previous interviews.

“Because we are family, it is very easy for the two worlds to just naturally mix,” Maia explained. I think that skating has strengthened our relationship as a whole. We have always been close – even before we started skating together. Even though our partnership is ‘built-in’, it still takes work like any other relationship. We are both passionate about what we do and we are very motivated.”


3. They Have A Large YouTube Following

The siblings launched their YouTube channel in 2012 as a way to document their skating careers and lives.

Download video Links

As of Feb. 2018, they had over 51,000 subscribers.

“Maia and I vlog at every competition we go to,” Alex told Hollywood Life. “We really enjoy making videos and sharing our experiences.”

Their videos cover a wide variety of topics, from their on-ice practices to Maia’s hair and makeup routine.

The “Shib Sibs” also have a joint Instagram account where they share a look inside their lives on and off the ice. They have over 53,000 followers on Instagram.


4. The Shibutani’s Attend University of Michigan

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Shibutani siblings GettyMaia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani compete in the Free Dance during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating.

Their parents are Chris and Naomi Shibutani, both of Japanese descent, who met as Harvard musicians. Education has always been important in the Shibutani household.

Download video Links

Alex attended the prestigious Brunswick School in Greenwich, Connecticut, during the late ’90s before relocating to Colorado Springs from 2005 through 2007 then Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2007.

While in Colorado Springs, Alex Shibutani attended Cheyenne Mountain High School and finished his sophomore year there. He completed his junior and senior years of high school at Huron High School and entered the University of Michigan in the fall semester of 2009.

Maia was a student at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Connecticut before moving to Colorado Springs, where she was home-schooled from 2005 through 2007. When the Shibutani’s moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2007, she attended Huron High School along with her brother. She graduated in 2012, and entered the University of Michigan in the fall of 2012.

Fellow American ice dancer, Evan Bates graduated from University of Michigan in 2013.

Download video Links


5. They Worked With Derek & Julianne Hough To Prepare Their Olympic Short Program

Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, Shibutani siblings GettyMaia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani compete in the Ice Dance Short Dance during the 2014 Hilton HHonors Skate America competition at the Sears Centre Arena on October 24, 2014.

The siblings are known to fully delve into the creative aspect of their programs.

The Shibutani’s are skating to “Perez Prado Medley” (Mambo, Cha Cha and Samba) arranged by Alex and Ryanimay in their short dance. They were aware of the perception that as siblings, the Latin rhythms could be tricky to perform. In February, they sought out advice from renowned dancer Derek Hough.

Derek Hough and his younger sister, Julianne, have been standouts in the world of dance and entertainment on ABC’s popular show, “Dancing with The Stars.”

“Derek shared our opinion that Latin rhythms can absolutely be about having fun,” Maia said. “The program we have created has a cohesive concept and it is high energy. It really suits us and we’ve made it our own. We love it.”

The Shibutani’s attended two days of rehearsals for Julianne and Derek’s tour. They also worked with Serge Onik, Jenna Johnson and Maxim Kozhevnikov.

“Learning from both male and female dancers was incredibly helpful when we were looking to create movement that highlights both me and Alex,” Maia explained in a blog on Team USA’s website.

Their free dance will be to “Paradise” by Coldplay.

Maia said choosing this piece was a very personal and well-thought choice:

We made the final decision that we would skate to “Paradise” while we were competing at the 2017 Four Continents Championships (the Olympic test event hosted in PyeongChang) in February. It was powerful listening to the piece in the Olympic venue in South Korea. Alex, Marina, Massy and I all felt it. This was the direction we HAD to follow. Choosing your Olympic free dance music is a crucial decision, and I realize how special it is that we were so sure of our direction.