The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are here. That means over the next couple weeks, all of our friends and family will be glued to their televisions; decking themselves out in red, white, and blue (or whatever the colors of their chosen team); and asking "did you see that snowboard cross/luge/figure skating final?". Back in September, we caught up with Olympic hopefuls before their very busy fall of training and competitions leading to the Games. We ran each of them through our Teen Vogue Olympics questionnaire designed to help you get to know Team USA's top competitors as they hit the world stage in Pyeongchang. Read on to find out more about Team USA ice dance team (and siblings) Alex and Maia Shibutani.
What are your hidden talents?
Maia Shibutani: I don't know how hidden it is, but one of my talents that I'm proud of is being organized, and keeping up with people.
Alex Shibutani: Yes. You're also really good at cooking.
MS: That's true. Not really, really good, but I like to cook.
AS: I think she's really good. I eat the food. What's one of my hidden talents? I like photography. We have our YouTube channel, and so I edit all of our videos. We try to use social media as an outlet for our creativity, not just, "I'm at the grocery store."
MS: You take photos of people that we meet or events, so you're very versatile.
What's your favorite junk food?
AS: You like chocolate.
MS: I love chocolate.
AS: It depends on if you consider that junk food.
MS: I don't consider that junk food, though, but I love chocolate.
AS: You know on the Instagram Explore page, it tells you what you're mostly looking at? I am apparently mostly looking at fried chicken sandwiches. That's my junk food of choice, and I don't eat them very often, but I think I satiate that want by just looking at photos on Instagram.
What is the hardest part about being an athlete?
MS: Probably the discipline and just the hours that it takes to really make your goals a reality.
AS: Yes. I think the most challenging thing is consistency, because you can decide that you really want to do something, but being able to continue it over a long period of time, developing consistency and being disciplined is the barrier between wanting to do something and doing it.
MS: Also, you can be really skilled, but if you're not consistent in performance and being able to deliver under pressure, no one has the opportunity to see that if you don't show it.
What's the best thing about being an athlete?
AS: The feeling when you nail it. When all the hard work that you've put in in practice and all the people that are in your support team, your parents, your coaches, your fans, the people that care about you, when you skate the way that you want to skate at a competition, that feeling is unlike anything else. Getting a standing ovation in front of a full arena is an amazing feeling, and we've been lucky to have that experience many times.
Who do you look up in the sport or in life in general?
AS: Our parents have been amazing. We're so lucky that we've never felt any pressure from them to do this or anything. They've always just wanted us to be happy. That's given us the freedom to try different things, and I started off playing violin. Didn't like the violin. That was okay.
MS: He wanted to be a basketball player, and our parents are really short and they're like, "Go for it."
AS: Yes. They looked at their kid, and he's like, "I want to play in the NBA," and they're like, "You go for it. Enjoy yourself. Follow your dreams and your passions," and then finally, I found something that made a little bit more sense, but yes, our parents are amazing. People that we look up to-
MS: Within the Olympic realm, we're really lucky.
AS: Yes. Summer Olympians, winter Olympians, it becomes kind of this-
AS: This family, and so Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, those are all skaters that have mentored us and given us their advice, particularly as we head into the Olympics, and we really value that.
MS: When it comes to just working really hard all hours-
AS: Yes. We both know what we were going to say. Nonstop hustle. The Rock, he amazes us with the fact that he's got Ballers, he has Jumanji coming up, multiple movies, multiple projects where he's not even in that actual thing but he's producing it. We've never met him, but he seems like a really down-to-earth guy.
AS: Takes care of himself, he works out. He does great things for his fans. He's very appreciative of them. The world needs more people who have that type of positive energy and are willing to work hard for themselves obviously and their career like he does, but also be conscious of giving back and supporting people, too.
What else would you would want Teen Vogue readers to know about you guys or skating or the work that you're doing? MS: If you haven't seen figure skating before, definitely tune in and watch this Winter Olympics. The sport is in a really unique and exciting place right now, and just speaking for ourselves, compared to the last Olympics, we've grown so much and we feel like we're really bringing something different to our discipline. We're excited about the programs that we have, so we want people to tune in.
AS: Yes, we're always trying to bring something fresh. I think one of the misconceptions about figure skating is that people assume that it's kind of old-fashioned. We're going to see someone skating to old boring music, like classical music. It's something my mom likes to watch or my grandma, but what Maia and I are trying to do with our social media and just the way that we approach building our programs and we skate to what we want to see, and we challenge ourselves with grading concepts that entertain us.
MS: This really started two years ago.
AS: Yes, so two years ago, we skated to "Fix You" by Coldplay, and people really related to that and we really related to it. Last year, we did a Frank Sinatra Jay-Z mashup remix, and we enjoy innovating and trying new things. I think that if you maybe thought that you didn't like figure skating or wouldn't give it a second chance, we encourage you to watch us perform at the Olympics, and hopefully we can change your mind.