Maia, Alex Shibutani make history of their own in PyeongChang
Maia and Alex Shibutani officially formed a dance team in 2004, but their history together starts long before that.
Maia started skating at age 4 and, once Alex saw how much fun she was having, he joined her in the ice soon after. They were inspired to take up ice dance after attending the 2003 World Championships. They moved once to Colorado Springs and again to Michigan for better training opportunities.
They were the first U.S. ice dance team to win a medal (a bronze) at their senior world championships debut. They shared that podium with eventual ice dance Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada and Team USA’s Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
At nationals, the Shibutanis shared the podium with Davis and White in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, before Davis and White stepped away from competition.
On Monday, the Shibutanis shared an international podium with Virtue and Moir again – this time at the Olympics.
While Virtue and Moir won their fifth Olympic medal, the Shibutanis won their second. The brothers-sister team contributed both short and free dance phases to the team event, helping the U.S. squad to a bronze medal earlier in the Games.
The Shibutanis overcame a 0.02-point deficit to capture the bronze medal in the dance event. Doing so meant several historical points for the teammates.
The Shibutanis became the first U.S. siblings to win an Olympic ice dance medal. The only other occurrence of siblings winning ice dance medals together happened in 1992, when France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay claimed silver.
“It’s the Olympics, you’re going to be a little nervous, but at the end of the day I know that I’m out there with Alex and we just really trust and believe in each other and in ourselves,” Maia said after the short dance. After the free dance, she got choked up explaining:
“It’s incredibly special and along the way of our career, there have been a lot of people that have told us that maybe shouldn’t do it. Or that siblings shouldn’t be a team. But we believed in ourselves and we accomplished this together and I’m so proud of all the work that we’ve done.”
In 1984, adopted siblings Kitty and Peter Carruthers captured a pairs silver medal. The Carruthers had different biological parents but were adopted by Charles and Maureen Carruthers.
And according to TeamUSA.org, the Shibutanis were the first ice dancers of Asian descent to win medals at an Olympics via the team event. Now they can claim that title twice over with their dance event bronze medals.
Ice dance has a shorter Olympic history than other disciplines – it was only introduced to the Games in 1976 – but medalists have only come from the following countries: the United States, Canada, France, Ukraine, Italy, Hungary, and Great Britain, plus Russia/the Soviet Union/Unified Team.
The Shibutanis are extending a legacy for the United States in ice dance at the Olympics. In 2006, Tanith Belbin (now White) and partner Ben Agosto snapped a 30-year medal drought when they captured a silver medal. Then, in 2010, Davis and White earned a silver before following it up with gold in 2014.
The Shibutanis’ free dance, set to “Paradise” by Coldplay, told their own personal story as the third installment of a trilogy.
“Because the lyrics of the song talk about a girl, and when she was young she had all these hopes and dreams,” Alex told InsideSkating.Net earlier this season. “And at a certain point, you know, these hopes and dreams seem out of your reach, like they’re unattainable. But the song then goes on about how she continues to dream, and believe in herself. Life goes on. That has been our mantra, continuing to believe in each other, and dream.”