Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani take break from figure skating

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Olympic ice dance bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani will sit out the 2018-19 season but are not ruling out a later return to competition, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

The siblings are touring with Stars on Ice, having skipped last month’s world championships, and plan to keep training and create new programs to perform throughout the year at shows, Alex said.

“While we are still young and love competing and performing, we have exciting projects that we have the opportunity to work on both together and individually,” Maia said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.

Four years ago, Sochi Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White skipped the post-Olympic world championships and then announced they would sit out the post-Olympic season. Davis and White haven’t competed since.

The Shibutanis succeeded Davis and White and fellow Sochi Olympians Madison Chock and Evan Bates as the top U.S. dance couple.

They earned national titles and world championships medals in 2016 (silver) and 2017 (bronze) before coming back from fourth place after the short dance to take bronze in PyeongChang.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

With the Shibutanis out and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir expected to retire, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are in a class of their own in ice dance.

Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue beat the Shibutanis at January’s nationals, were third in the short dance in PyeongChang and took a distant second to the French at worlds last month.

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