Maia and Alex Shibutani, better known to audiences around the world as the “ShibSibs,” are the sister-brother ice dancing duo who captured two Olympic bronze medals at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Their hard work of skating together for 13 years paid off as they became the first U.S. team of siblings to earn an Olympic medal in ice dancing and the first in the world to do so since 1992 when the Canadian team of Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay took the silver medal in Albertville, France.
The Shibutanis also made history in South Korea as the first ice dancers of Asian descent to claim an Olympic medal. Their parents, Chris and Naomi Shibutani, both of Japanese descent, met at Harvard where both were musicians.
Maia and Alex decided to take up ice dancing when she was 9 and he was 12 after their family traveled to Washington, D.C., to see the 2003 World Championships. They were so enthralled by the ice dancing competition that they became a team shortly afterward.
Maia and Alex made a historic debut on the senior international circuit in 2010-2011 by becoming the first ice dance team ever to medal at both of their Grand Prix events during a rookie season. By earning a silver medal at the 2011 Four Continents Championship, they became the first ice dancers of Asian heritage to medal at a major ISU championship. During the 2011 World Championships, they became the first American ice dancers to medal at their Worlds debut. At just 16 and 19, they were the second youngest team in the history of the sport (and youngest since 1962) to medal at the World Championships.
They placed eighth at the next two World Championships, in 2012 and 203. In 2014, they earned the bronze medal at the U.S. Championships to secure a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi, Russia, where they placed ninth.
They claimed the silver medal at the 2015 U.S. Championships and went on to win the national crown in 2016 and 2017. On the international scene, they returned to the world medal podium in 2016, claiming a silver medal, and then took the bronze in 2017. Their bronze-performance secured three spots for the United States at the 2018 Olympic Games.
Maia and Alex entered the 2018 Winter Games as top medal contenders. They started off the Games with a bang, skating strong in the team event in both the short dance and the free dance to lift the United States to a bronze medal. Then, in the ice dancing event, they rallied from a fourth-place showing in the short dance to claim the bronze medal.
“No one expected this of us but we have always dreamed this was possible and knew we had it in us,” Alex told reporters after winning the ice dancing bronze medal.
Added Maia, “We believed in each other."
Maia and Alex competed as athlete members of Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Alex, born in Boston, MA, and Maia, born in NYC, spent their early years growing up in Boston MA and Old Greenwich CT, and started skating at the ages of 7 and 4. Maia and Alex began ice dancing together in 2005 at the ages of 10 and 13. During their first year competing, they earned a silver medal at the juvenile level of the U.S. Junior Championships. The duo lived and trained in Colorado Springs for two years (2005-2007) and won unprecedented back-to-back National titles at the Intermediate and Novice levels. In 2007, they relocated to Michigan and have since been training alongside the top ice dance teams in the world at the Arctic Edge Arena in Canton MI. They are coached by Marina Zoueva, Massimo Scali, Johnny Johns, and Oleg Epstein.
Maia and Alex have collaborated extensively with artists from the world of dance including world champion ballroom dancer from “Dancing with the Stars” Corky Ballas, Michael Jackson’s choreographer Travis Payne and his Dance master for the “THIS IS IT” tour, Stacy Walker, “So You Think You Can Dance” artist, Alex Wong, and former principal dancer from the American Ballet Theatre, Cheryl Yeager.
Charitable Activities: Maia and Alex are Athlete Ambassadors for the multi-national organization Right To Play. Other organizations that Maia and Alex support include The Jimmy Fund (Children’s Cancer Research), Skating Friends Support Japan (Post Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Effort), Figure Skating in Harlem, and THE ONE FUND.
Honors and Awards: In 2012, Maia became the first ice dancer to be awarded a Travel and Training Grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation. She joined a recipient class that included Olympians Gabby Douglas and the US Women’s Boxing team. Maia was again awarded a grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2014. In 2011, Maia and Alex won the Professional Skater’s Association EDI Award for most outstanding performance at US Nationals. In November 2015, nominated by the US Olympic Committee and with fan support voting for athletes from all Olympic sports, they were named Team USA’s Team of the Month.
Ambassadors for their Sport: Maia and Alex have twice been honored with invitations to attend events in Washington DC at the request of the U.S. State Department, honoring the official visits to the US of the Prime Minister of Japan. In April 2012, they were invited to a dinner by Secretary Hillary Clinton. In April 2015, they were invited to a lunch by Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joseph Biden.
Social Media: Throughout their careers, Maia and Alex have distinguished themselves with their unique ability to connect with fans through a wide range of social media platforms. In August 2012, Maia and Alex launched their own YouTube channel – ShibSibs – with proprietary videos for which they do everything from concept creation, directing, filming, and editing. With 56 original videos thus far and formats ranging from humorous music video parodies, “behind-the-scenes” montages, and even originally scripted material - the ShibSibs channel has quickly garnered an international following with over 19,000 subscribers and more than 3.5 million views. Cast members for their video productions have included elite skaters from all over the world (including Mao Asada from Japan), a featured cameo by Olympic champion Brian Boitano, and members of the US Olympic men’s and women’s gymnastics teams (including Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber).