Maia & Alex Shibutani's Parents Aren't Athletes So They Supported Their Children’s Dreams In A Different Way
Throughout the competition, America has been rooting for Alex and Maia Shibutani, brother and sister figure skating duo. They took home the silver medal in short dance at the 2018 Winter Olympics, but long before they became world-class competitors, Alex and Maia Shibutani's parents supported their athletic dreams — through music. And the Team USA skaters were able to make it to the PyeongChang Games, thanks to their athleticism, technique, and a big dose of helpful support from their mom and dad, Naomi and Chris Shibutani.
Unlike many other athletes who follow in their parents steps, the "Shibsibs" developed a love of skating on their own. Alex, 26, told ESPN back in 2011, "Our parents were not serious athletes." He added, "Dad skated recreationally on a pond." Their parents did however, share their love of music. Naomi and Chris were both musicians when they met as students at Harvard University. According to ESPN, Chris played the flute, while Naomi was a concert pianist. That understanding is helpful in ice dance, a competition that reportedly requires a ballroom dance-level artistry and precision in regards to synchronicity and the rhythm of the music.
The siblings also credit their mom's drive as a piano player as the lens though which Naomi saw her children's budding passion for ice skating. In an incredibly sweet video tribute to their mom that they released on their YouTube channel The ShibSibs, Alex and Maia explained how much Naomi's support meant to them. "When our mom was growing up, her passion was music," Maia said. "She knew what it meant to dream about something and work hard to achieve her goals." Alex added, "While she was never a skater, she recognized our passion for our sport and has put all her energy into supporting us in anyway that she can."
In the video, the siblings explain that their mom let them pursue their interest in skating from an early age. According to IceNetwork, a website run by the sport's national governing body U.S. Figure Skating, Maia began skating at just 4 years old, while Alex began at 7 years old after watching Maia on the ice. The two originally competed individually before they began ice dancing together in 2004, when Alex was 12 and Maia was 9. The two have since gone on to medal in the U.S. Championships for 13 consecutive years.
In order to support their children's passion, Chris and Naomi also made sacrifices. According to The Detroit Free Press, Alex was born in Boston and Maia in New York. When they were young, Chris, who works in finance, bought an acre of land in Greenwich, CT, and the family designed their "dream home." However, Connecticut was not the ideal place for the budding-athletes to train. Naomi explained that she had difficulty finding the appropriate amount of ice time at rinks in the area. "I was driving around New York, New Jersey, all around Connecticut," she told Detroit Free Press. "Maybe we would go to two or three rinks in a day."
So, when the children went to ice skating camp in Colorado Springs and had a transformative experience, Naomi moved the family to Colorado Springs. According to ESPN, the family outfitted the home with a dedicated ballet room so that the kids could practice their choreography off the ice. Their former coach Patti Gottwein told ESPN that Naomi would "videotape everything." She explained, "The parents are very much an integral part of what their training is."
According to the Detroit Free Press, the brood once again picked up everything to move once Alex graduated from high school. While Alex was a student at the University of Michigan — the college where Maia also went — the two trained at Arctic Edge Ice Arena in Canton, Michigan.
So, while there's no doubt that its taken hard work and discipline for the siblings to become world medalists, they can also thank the support and sacrifice of mom and dad for helping them pursue that dream — and music for making their parents even more effective at understanding their passion.