‘Shib Sibs” Maia & Alex Shibutani Take Ice Dancing World by Storm

Camille Argentar

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The 2018 Winter Olympics are upon us, and with them come many incredible winter sports. Some fans love snowboarding, skiing, or even curling, but the true focus of the country is on the sport of figure skating. Not only is figure skating stunning and deceivingly difficult, but the recent success of Oscar-nominated film I, Tonya has added to the current hype.

With America’s hopes riding on 18-year-old Nathan Chen, many other impressive athletes have flown under the radar. These include Alexa and Chris Knierim, happily married pair skaters, Mirai Nagasu, one of the few women to land a triple axel in competition, and lastly, Maia and Alex Shibutani, siblings competing as a pair in ice dancing.

Maia and Alex Shibutani pose with their medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Maia and Alex, nicknamed the “Shib Sibs”, have been competing together since 2004, inspired by skaters at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City. Maia was the first to skate, learning from beginner’s classes and birthday parties. Alex joined a few years after, seeing that Maia was having such a good time. They’ve been unstoppable ever since, working hard on their technique with skating coaches and ballroom dancers alike. Before reaching the Olympics in 2018, the Shibutanis gained a following on their YouTube channel, standing at nearly 100,000 subscribers. The pair never fail to emit positive energy to their fans and audiences.

The Shibutanis compete in ice dancing, a subdivision of figure skating. Ice dancing is a widely overlooked sport, with all the attention being given to figure skaters’ quad jumps and triple axels. In stark contrast, ice dancing focuses on the artistry of skating, being scored on elements such as twizzles, in-sync turns across the ice. When an ice dancer makes a mistake, it’s rarely visible to the audience, but the judges see everything. The “dancing” aspect of the sport is taken from ballroom, with required styles often including rumba or samba. Ballroom is often more sensual than other genres of dance, but that isn’t stopping the Shibutanis.

After the bronze-medal-winning success of the American skaters in the team competition, the Shib Sibs set out for more. With a stunning short program and free skate, Maia and Alex’s happiness and dedication for skating shined through, earning them a bronze medal finish in the individual competition, behind Canada and France. The success of the siblings is only the beginning, inspiring many young skaters to do what they love and defy stereotypes.

 

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