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Maia and Alex Shibutani chose their 2013-14 dance programs with the Olympics in mind and are very excited to show the world. The recent US Nationals bronze medalists have had their eyes on the prize for several years.

“Even before our first year as seniors (2010/2011), our planning and development has been aimed at preparing ourselves for 2014”, posted the siblings on their website.


The Shibutanis called on DWTS trainer, Corky Ballas, for help with their Short Dance. Two years prior, Kristi Yamaguchi had suggested the duo contact the former Latin ballroom champion for help with the Rhumba pattern dance.  They had confidence he could again bring out their best.

They visited his Houston, TX dance studio and laid out the ideas for the Finnstep pattern. Later, Ballas flew to Michigan and with coach, Marina Zueva, wove the Foxtrot and Quickstep rhythms through Michael Buble’s music.

“We meshed with him right away, and he put us under his wing. It’s been a blast creating our short program this year”, commented Alex at the pre Olympic teleconference.


The Michael Jackson music chosen for the Olympic Free Program could have been a risky move. Most skaters select well-known classical pieces for the Olympic season.

However, the Michigan undergraduates wanted to do the unexpected, but something that would also make them proud. “With all our programs, we strive to have authenticity. Michael Jackson’s music is iconic…so recognizable that we wanted to make sure we did it justice”, Alex told the press.

Team Shibutani enlisted the assistance of Michael Jackson’s incredible associates – choreographers and dancers, Travis Payne and Stacy Walker. Both had collaborated with Jackson on the dance moves for This is It, his final, but unfinished tour. “Sometimes it was in the mirror, wiggling around, coming up with something new”, shared Walker. “But it was always how to convey a message with sensitivity and awareness”, added Payne.

The siblings flew to LA and met Walker who told them “Working with Michael you were always surrounded by the best of the best in every field.”  That’s exactly what the Sibutanis wanted for their competitive programs. Dancer/choreographer, Walker, quickly grasped the ice-dancing concept and understood what the skaters hoped to achieve.

Team Shibutani selected Jackson songs “Wanna Be Starting Something” and “Thriller” to open and close the program.

The Japanese female group1966 Quartet’s instrumental version of “Ben” was added to the middle section. Mike McKnight, sound engineer for This is It tour, magically tied the whole program together.

After winning two bronze medals at the 2013 Grand Prix series, but missing the Final, Team Shibutani replaced “Ben” with “Man in the Mirror”. Payne and Walker assisted with the adjustments to the new program, which made a very successful debut at the US Nationals in Boston.

“During our performance, we noticed the audience was clapping to the new music, and that was exciting for us.  That’s definitely a difference in terms of reception from the old piece,” Alex shared on the teleconference. “The program is different than what the typical viewer would expect to see as an Olympic Ice Dance competitive program. We look forward to sharing it,” quipped Alex.

When a journalist noted the British Ice Dance team was also skating to Michael Jackson’s music, Maia added, “It speaks to Michael’s versatility that two teams can have programs that come out completely different. “

It should be a “Thriller” for the spectators at the Iceberg Palace in Sochi and on flat screens around the world.


Maia and Alex have ice danced together for ten years. Through social media, fans have joined them on their journey and watched them grow up.

Since the Olympics have always been a dream for the duo, they plan to continue sharing their experiences.  “It’s normal for us at competitions to take videos and pictures.  We’re not going to change anything about what we do.  So you can look for what we’ll be doing with the social media.  We’re looking forward to meeting other athletes at the Olympics and soaking up everything we possibly can…then sharing with our fans and friends,” Alex told the teleconference journalists.

The siblings document and share their activities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They also have their own YouTube channel – ShibSibs  – for posting videos from their travels and competitions.

Between the US Nationals and departure for Sochi, the figure skating team used Group Chat to bond and stay in touch with each other.  Every day stuff and cute animal pictures have helped the skaters relax, but stay focused.

“Group chat and text messages have been a great way to get closer to the team. It’s been especially great for the younger skaters. We’re all on this journey together, and it’s helped us bond so far,” Alex shared.

Maia Shibutani and Charlie White pulled a coup and got all fifteen members together on one conversation.  “Four years ago something like this wouldn’t have been able to happen,” smiled Maia.


The Shibutanis are one of seven sets of siblings representing the US at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. It breaks the Winter Games record of six set back in 1964. Maia and Alex are looking forward to chatting with others who share competing with a brother or sister.

Maia Shibutani summed up her feeling. “We’re so incredibly happy to have this opportunity.  To be able to experience this with my brother is even better.

Boston born Alex Shibutani has a “love lust” for its sports’ heroes. Take for example skating on the TD Garden ice during US Nationals. Back stage he passed photos of former and current Celtics and Bruins’, which propelled him even though he didn’t need extra fuel for the competition.

Flash forward to Sochi: “I’m going to be sitting in the cafeteria of the Olympic Village waiting for Bruins’ players to line up to get food.  I’ll just like pounce on them.”

The Michigan Olympian is excited to meet the athletes from all over the world at, in Alex’s words, “the greatest sporting event in the entire world”.

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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