It's been a thrilling year so far for Alex and Maia Shibutani, the ice dancing pair that won over our hearts and took home the bronze medal in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The brother-and-sister duo put on some stellar performances in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and they proved to the whole world that this is only the beginning for them.
We had the chance to catch up with Alex and Maia after the Olympics came to a close. "The Olympics are a completely different competition," Alex told POPSUGAR. "There's so much more media, so much more attention. Everyone's watching around the world, but we were comfortable with that given the experiences we already had."
They gave us the inside scoop on what the Olympics were really like, and they shared some insight into their successful relationship.
What the Athletes' Olympic Village Is Like
We couldn't help but ask what it was really like to stay in the Olympic village of athletes. Was it as fun as we imagine it to be? The first word that came to Maia's mind when she remembered her experience was "comfortable."
"We're not playing parts or roles when we're skating together."
"First of all, the volunteers were amazing," she told POPSUGAR. "And Team USA did such a great job making sure the athletes didn't have to worry about anything. Everyone is there to do their jobs to the best of their ability, so I felt like it was a very relaxed environment where I was motivated to just bring my best every day."
Because it wasn't the Shibutanis' first time at the Olympics, Alex said they enjoyed "see[ing] the games through the first-timers' eyes." Maia added, "Team USA was pretty evenly split with having people that were veterans and also people where it was their first Olympics. Everyone's on a different competition schedule, but being able to experience it all together is really unique."
What Sets Them Apart From Other Olympic Ice Dancers
Let's not beat around the bush: pretty much every ice dancing pair we see at the Olympics tells a romantic story in their performances at some point. Look at Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the queen and king of sexy ice dancing who inevitably make us blush and wonder if they secretly got married behind our backs. Even silver medalists from Germany, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, put on a steamy show for everyone to see.
"Alex and I had to approach things in a different way [out] of necessity," Maia shared. "We've had to move outside the normal lane of how people go about building programs and creating those moments, but it's led to some amazing things creatively."
"We build these programs so that they are reflective of us, so we are being truly our authentic selves."
The very thing that was considered their biggest challenge in the beginning has actually become their greatest strength. "We're not playing parts or roles when we're skating together," Alex explained. "There's something to be said about a skating team that's able to give off an emotional, romantic vibe, but at the end of the day, even though the media paints ice dancing as 'they're all dating,' a lot of them aren't. It's just acting."
"The difference with us is that we're not acting," he concluded. "We build these programs so that they are reflective of us, so we are being truly our authentic selves." It's no wonder the whole world fell in love with them. What you see from Alex and Maia on the ice is exactly who they are.
What It's Like to Work Together For 14 Years
"We spend so much time together, and because we've been trying to pursue being elite athletes, there's definitely some intensity that gets thrown in there," Maia admitted. "We don't have to sugarcoat things. Yeah, of course we fight. But that's fine because we know we have that shared goal and it helps us work through things quicker."
"We don't have to sugarcoat things. Yeah, of course we fight."
"We try to stay out of our own way, though," Alex chimed in. He said one of the greatest indicators of how well they get along overall is how much work they do together off the ice. "It brings some value back to our skating," he said. "If we were sick of each other, that stuff wouldn't exist."
In the next year or so, you can expect the Shibutani siblings to put more time and effort into the interests they have outside of skating. "We're going to be challenging ourselves and pushing ourselves to grow," Alex said proudly. "And anything that we do on or off the ice will make us more well-rounded people, wiser, and more prepared for the next steps we want to take in our career."
Whatever the Shib sibs do, we'll be right there next to them, cheering them on!