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'Shib Sibs' riding momentum into Lake Placid Skate America

Countdown to Skate America

October 31, 2017
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The brother and sister ice dance team of Maia and Alex Shibutani are no strangers to the international skating spotlight. The 2014 Olympians and two-time national champions have been formidable competitors from the beginning of their ice-dancing careers, frequently dazzling judges and audience members alike at such events as the traditional Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships.

The team will be illuminated once again Nov. 24-25 at Skate America in Lake Placid, which is the final ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating event of the season. The Shibutanis, also known as "the Shibs" or "the Shib Sibs," will compete alongside some of the best ice dancers in the world, including fellow US ice dancers Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons.

Ice dancing is a unique discipline that requires precise musicality to portray various dance styles, while also demanding extreme technical difficulty in the form of lifts, spins and turns. Ice dance at an elite level requires fastidious dedication, focus and interpretative talent, all qualities the Shibutanis possess in spades.

Article Photos

The brother and sister ice dance team of Maia and Alex Shibutani pose for a photo with the American flag.
Photo provided

"Our greatest strength is that we have our own point of view and we are dedicated to our vision and process; we are strong, confident competitors because we put everything we have into creating our programs, (and) love to compete and share our work with an audience," the Shibutanis wrote in an email. "The bond we have as a sibling team sets us apart from the rest of the field. Creatively, we believe in collaboration and we look outside of the sport to bring new ideas to our skating and the discipline."

Maia and Alex Shibutani started skating at ages 4 and 7, respectively, as singles skaters before becoming an ice dance team in 2004. In their first season, they won the 2005 North Atlantic Regional Championships, which qualified them for the U.S. Junior Championships, where they won a silver medal.

From there, the pair quickly rose through the ranks, medaling at the U.S. Championships for 13 consecutive years, at every level and every year they competed. The 2014 Olympics were always a dream, and they achieved that goal with a top 10 finish.

Like many of the world's top ice dancers, the Shibutanis train in Canton, Michigan, working with Marina Zoueva, Massimo Scali, Oleg Epstein and Johnny Johns. They are joined by a team of skaters and dancers that include Renee Roca, a three-time national champion in ice dance, and Peter Tcernyshev, a five-time national champion and Olympian.

The Shibutanis trained in Colorado Springs at the World Arena, before moving to Canton, Michigan in the summer of 2006 to take their training to the next level. In Michigan, they continued to distinguish themselves as one of the up-and-coming national, world and Olympic hopes in US Ice Dance.

After the 2014 Olympics, they improved exponentially, building toward another Olympic season. Their accomplishments include winning two national championships, medaling three times at the world championships and winning the silver medal at the 2017 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

The 2017 National Championships was perhaps one of the greatest highlights, helping to prepare the Shibutanis for the 2017-18 Olympic season.

"Becoming the U.S. national champions was always one of our dreams; it is a title that carries a lot of weight and responsibility," they wrote. "Following Nationals, we continued to push ourselves to improve and we are proud of what we accomplished.

"Winning the silver medal at the Four Continents Championships and our third medal at the World Championships capped the most successful season of our career. We were happy that we brought home a World medal for Team USA. Delivering strong performances in every high-pressure situation throughout the entire season gave us a lot of confidence heading into the Olympic season."

The National win did seem to help. After winning medals at Four Continents and Worlds, they trained hard then started the Olympic season with a win at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, Russia. Skating to a Perez Prado medley they arranged themselves for the short dance, and Coldplay's "Paradise" for the free dance, they had a successful start to the season.

"There was a lot of anticipation heading into the first competition of our season; it was amazing to perform in front of an audience and share the programs we have been developing and working on," the Shibutanis wrote. "Rostelecom was the start to the season we wanted to have."

A big part of success in anything, but especially sports, is setting goals. Like all elite athletes, the Shibutanis have clear goals for this season.

"Our goal this season is to be the best we can be and do the best we have ever done," they wrote. "It feels amazing knowing that these are the best, most challenging, meaningful and entertaining programs we've ever had. We are in the best shape of our careers and we are extremely motivated as we work towards the Olympics."

They hope to have strong enough performances at Skate America to earn a spot in the Grand Prix Final in Japan.

"Having won our first competition, our goal is to show improvement since our performances in Moscow. We want to compete at the Grand Prix Final in Japan so having a strong competition in Lake Placid is important," the Shibutanis wrote. "Competing at home in the U.S. is always a great experience, and we want to create special moments for the audience."

The Shibs' create special moments for their fans off the ice as well, with their strong social media presence and extracurricular pursuits garnering plenty of positive attention. Their accessible, yet poised personalities have earned them approximately 5 million views and more than 41,000 subscribers on their ShibSibs YouTube channel, various endorsements and a position as sports envoys for the U.S. State Department.

One can glimpse a unique view of their lives through their Instagram and Twitter accounts, where they post frequently.

Many skating fans remember the talented team when they started out, competing in Lake Placid and often challenging or beating more experienced teams. They have more history with Lake Placid than most, having competed in the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships regularly and skating in the Saturday Night Ice Show during the summer of 2012.

"We have been competing in Lake Placid since we first began Ice Dance 14 years ago," the Shibutanis wrote. "Lake Placid has an amazing Olympic history, which makes it the perfect location for Skate America in an Olympic season."

Skating fans can enjoy elite ice dancing and more at the 2017 Bridgestone Skate America in Lake Placid Nov. 24-26. For more information, including information on how to purchase tickets, visit their website at www.2017skateamerica.com/.

 
 

 

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