Skaters Ready to Live Olympic Dream

If Olympic ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani win medals in Sochi, it won't be anything they haven't practiced for.

Their mother Naomi remembers back to a Connecticut living room years ago, when two wide-eyed children got their first taste of the Olympics.

"Alex pretended he was Dan Jansen, and Maia was so enthralled with Kristi [Yamaguchi] and then Michelle [Kwan]," she recalled. "They would have these little, in our living room, like 'We are getting our medals, you know we have to bow down to get them.' As a parent you go, 'Oh, ho, that's cute,' but the fact that they are able to fulfill a dream, that they have pursued together, is just very overwhelming."

After several friends had birthday parties at ice skating rinks, Naomi and her husband Chris took their kids to skating lessons, so they would be comfortable and able to participate without clinging to the walls.

"Maia wanted to continue skating," Naomi said. "And I had to drag Alex along for her lessons. It was either, do your homework, or if you want to skate that's fine. When he saw here out there having such a good time, he was like, 'Oh, you know, who wants to do homework, I'll go skate too.' so that's essentially how they started.

And they've been inseparable on the ice ever since. The Olympic Dream has always been pursued together. Alex and Maia -- affectionately known as the Shib Sibs -- are as close off the ice as they come on it.

"We've always gotten along really well," said Alex. "This whole process has been so amazing for us, to be in Sochi, to walk in the opening ceremonies with your sister, it's going to be so much fun."

They've skated together for ten years, in a sport that's often portrayed as a romantic interaction on the ice.

"I think that being a brother-sister team we've had to take kind of a different path than other teams," said Maia. "For us, it's made us be more creative and I think it's made us a stronger team."

And that creativity, and particularly their energy, have helped send them to Sochi for their first Olympics.

"I just think it's so special that I'm going to get to go to the Olympics with my brother competing for the US. I think that that combination is so special. Obviously he's known me my entire life, but this is also ten years in the making for us. We're really looking forward to it."

"Yeah," said Alex. "It's a dream come true for us"

Like so many Olympic athletes though, the dream could not have become a reality without the support of their parents. The Shibutani family moved from Boston to Colorado and from Colorado to Michigan, trying to secure the right coaching to make the Olympic Dream a reality.

"There are clearly sacrifices," said father Chris Shibutani. "I think that that word sometimes is also tied more to tradeoffs and decisions. I think every athlete, that is going to be walking in the Opening Ceremonies couldn't be there without their family support and everybody has stories of hard work and I guess, sacrifice."

For Chris Shibutani, it's meant a decade of commuting back and forth -- often by plane -- from where he lived to where he worked. He took seemingly countless flights just to figure out how to keep the Olympic Dream going.

Raising two Olympians, transporting the Shib Sibs wherever they needed to be and taking care of the little odds and ends, became Naomi's full-time job.

"Oh, the pay is horrible," she said with a laugh.

"She's the COO, the Chief Operating Officer of the process," her husband Chris chimes in, "but comp structure is definitely, the Board should be fired."

But the benefits, Naomi and Chris say have been more than worth it. They'll be with their kids in Sochi, watching a dream fulfilled.

"We've been so lucky they've always supported us in whatever we want to do, so I think they're just so proud of us," said Maia.

"I think that going to the Olympics as figure skaters and representing Team USA is definitely our dream," Alex agreed. "But I think -- and I'm not a parent yet, so I couldn't say -- but I imagine it would be a dream come true for any parent to see their children accomplishing their dreams."


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