Maia, Alex Shibutani talk new book, life transitions, and AAPI representation


Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani‘s accomplishments include two bronze medals at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and becoming the first Asian American ice dance couple elected to U.S. Figure Skating’s Hall of Fame. Now the siblings are making a greater impact off the ice by teaching the next generation about the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander success in their new picture book that was released last month.

The Shibutanis discussed the writing process, the significance of visibility and representation for people of all backgrounds, what life looks like since they stopped competing and what they learned from Maia’s battle with a kidney tumor.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Congratulations on your new book Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All. Tell me about why you decided to write this book.

Alex Shibutani: Education. We grew up without a book like this. I think that there’s a really natural connection between us getting exposure to the work that happens in Figure Skating in Harlem (an organization that transforms the lives of young girls of color through the combination of figure skating and education) at a very young age and sort of our experience with wanting to add to the representation that we see in children’s literature because as Asian Americans and part of the AAPI community, sadly there isn’t enough. We wanted to create this book so that the next generation can be inspired, but then also so that people from other backgrounds can learn about this community.

How do you think having this book around when you were younger would have impacted you?

Maia Shibutani: I think when you talk about visibility and representation, we were always fortunate that we had each other to encourage one another. But at the same time to be able to have those stories that are accessible of people who’ve gone on to do a variety of things, overcome different challenges, I think that that’s the gift that we want to give the next generation.

Alex Shibutani: I would have been so much more confident. If the book was around, and if it had been incorporated in education, or if other kids had the chance to read it, I maybe wouldn’t have had a hard time or as hard of a time in some social situations. As we progressed through our skating career, you meet different people from different backgrounds, and if this knowledge and this information isn’t readily available to them, they don’t have the perspective. They don’t have the empathy and the understanding to communicate and treat someone with kindness and respect that might come from a different background.

What was the writing process like, and how did you choose the people to feature in your book?

Maia Shibutani: We make a great team. There are 36 historic and contemporary figures [in our book], and that’s certainly not everyone, but we wanted to pick people who have done a variety of things. We have some great artists, scientists, activists and entertainers, so really to provide that variety of not only background, but also profession. We had great collaborators: our co-author, Dane Liu, and our illustrator, Aaliya Jaleel.

You have made such an impact with your success on the ice. Young boys and girls can watch at home and say, “Hey, they look like me, maybe I can do this too,” and now you’re making an even greater impact with this book. You’ve touched on it a little bit, but what does representation mean to you, and how do you want to continue to have an impact in this space?

Maia Shibutani: I was fortunate growing up that I had role models like [Olympic figure skating medalists] Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan. But I know that for Alex, he had to look outside of figure skating in order to find his role models.

Alex Shibutani: They (Yamaguchi and Kwan) were my role models, too, but I think specifically as a boy in skating — there weren’t very many boys in our area when we were growing up that were in skating. It would have been helpful to have had sort of visible representation in a very direct way like Maia had with Kristi and Michelle. But I found equal inspiration from following Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and all of the athletes from different cultural backgrounds than me. Hopefully by introducing these Asian American and Pacific Islander athletes that we have enclosed in the book, they can be inspiration for kids from all backgrounds.

You’ve mentioned Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan and even Nathan Chen. There’s been such a great legacy of Asian American success in figure skating. What does that continued success mean to you? 

Maia Shibutani: I think that it’s exciting that it’s continuing to build. But for example, those three figures aren’t three of our 36. We made that decision because figure skating out of all the sports has had a good amount of visibility. So with the seven athletes that we included, we wanted to have that mix of historic and contemporary and then also a good variety of different athletes.

Alex Shibutani: I would say that figure skating fans would perhaps argue otherwise. It’s never enough visibility. There’s never enough figure skating, but at the same time, it is one of the most popular sports in the Winter Olympic Games. And those athletes, while they do represent the Asian American community — again, it’s not a monolith. There are so many instances where people from different backgrounds have not been as readily accepted or included in our sport, and that is definitely something that the sport needs to realize.

While it’s tremendous that we have these examples of champions and that Maia and I have been able to accomplish things as well, it’s still not enough. Everyone should be welcomed into our sport, regardless of their background, regardless of their race, ethnicity, etc. I think that it’s kind of tricky, because people can name Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Nathan Chen, but those are three names. Then you add Maia’s and mine and Mirai Nagasu. It’s a handful, and it’s really important that we don’t make generalizations based on the success of very fortunate and talented people.

Speaking of your success — you and Maia became the first Asian American ice dance team to be inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. What does that accomplishment mean to you?

Alex Shibutani: We really respect the history of the sport, although people like us haven’t necessarily been in the Hall of Fame before. But still, again, it goes back to being inspired by people who were excellent at figure skating and have brought really valuable contributions to the sport both on and off the ice. It’s definitely a tremendous honor and not something that you think will happen to you. When you start skating, you dream maybe about competing at a world championships or the Olympic Games. I always associated Hall of Fame with my favorite basketball stars or my favorite football and hockey stars.

For a lot of athletes, their whole identity is wrapped up in their sport, and they struggle to find themselves without it whenever they take a break from competing. It seems like you have been able to make a seamless transition. How has that worked out for you?

Maia Shibutani: I think that it’s helped that we’ve heard each other, but then we’ve also had a variety of different interests and think of ourselves as being dimensional. Because we like challenges, I think we haven’t been afraid to move into unexpected places and spaces and just be open minded and grow and just try new things.

Alex Shibutani: [We don’t] worry about people’s preconceived notions about what we’re capable of or the expectations surrounding us in general. Because if we had been concerned about that in ice dance, I think that it would have been much more difficult for us to accomplish what we did. We’re very open-minded. We’re curious. I think ice dance as a discipline and figure skating in general demands a level of curiosity and dimensionality because it is such a beautiful sport that requires such athleticism and technicality, but also that artistry and storytelling.  I think the connection, when you think about it, is not too far removed in book writing and some of our other projects.

Do you see yourselves ever returning to competition? (Alex, 32, and Maia, 28, last competed at the 2018 Olympics but have not announced a retirement.)

Maia Shibutani: We’re leaving the door open. I think that’s a question that people ask us a lot, and we’re fortunate that we’ve always been young, relative to the competitive pool.

Alex Shibutani: Fortunate in some ways. When you’re young, and everyone’s so much older than you, it’s a little harder to make friends, because everyone who’s competing against you is like, “Oh, who are these children?” But Maia makes a good point. We’re still pretty young. I occasionally have a stress nightmare about being late to a competition so it could actually turn into a reality.

What other interests do you have outside of figure skating?

Maia Shibutani: We were just talking about hockey before this. We’re both big sports fans. Alex is involved in the LA ’28 Games, and so we’re really trying to use our experience and platform not only in storytelling, but also in sports and representing Team USA.

Alex Shibutani: Yeah, I think diplomacy is also a big part of what we’ve been working on. Those connections, building bridges to different communities, representing our country, but also our community and being allies to others. That’s stuff that really matters to us in whatever industry and whatever field we move into.

Switching gears – Maia, you went through a scary time dealing with a kidney tumor. How have you been health-wise since then?

Maia Shibutani: I’m doing well now. Thank you for asking. It was certainly challenging, but fortunately, I had the support of Alex and our parents. I was able to rely a bit on the mentality of being an athlete and being patient with the recovery process, taking things one step at a time. I’m very happy to be doing well now.

Alex Shibutani: Like transitioning from being an athlete to anything else, it’s a lot of hard work. I think that experience was very, very difficult, as sort of diplomatically as she put it. I think what it did, though, was it reaffirmed a lot of what we want to do with both of our lives because we’ve been so connected for so long.

Maia Shibutani: I don’t think either of us necessarily needed clarity but we definitely were even more intentional following that experience.

Alex Shibutani: And similar to what I think a lot of people experienced during the height of the pandemic. Thinking about time, how we use it, how we spend it and what really is important to us.

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Ryan Crouser breaks world record in shot put at Los Angeles Grand Prix


Two-time Olympic champion Ryan Crouser registered one of the greatest performances in track and field history, breaking his world record and throwing three of the six farthest shot puts of all time at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on Saturday.

Crouser unleashed throws of 23.56 meters, 23.31 and 23.23 at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. His previous world record from the Tokyo Olympic Trials was 23.37. He now owns the top four throws in history, and the 23.23 is tied for the fifth-best throw in history.

“The best thing is I’m still on high volume [training], heavy throws in the ring and heavy weights in the weight room, so we’re just starting to work in some speed,” the 6-foot-7 Crouser, who is perfecting a new technique coined the “Crouser slide,” told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Sha’Carri Richardson won her 100m heat in 10.90 seconds into a slight headwind, then did not start the final about 90 minutes later due to cramping, Johnson said. Richardson is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100m in 2023 (10.76) and No. 2 in the 200m (22.07).

Jamaican Ackeem Blake won the men’s 100m in a personal best 9.89 seconds. He now ranks third in the world this year behind Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala and American Fred Kerley, who meet in the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday (2-4 p.m. ET, CNBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock).

The next major meet is the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in early July, when the top three in most individual events qualify for August’s world championships.

Richardson will bid to make her first global championships team, two years after having her Olympic Trials win stripped for testing positive for marijuana and one year after being eliminated in the first round of the 100m at USATF Outdoors.

LA GRAND PRIX: Full Results

Also Saturday, Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico won the 100m hurdles in 12.31, the fastest time ever this early in a year. Nigerian Tobi Amusan, who at last July’s worlds lowered the world record to 12.12, was eighth in the eight-woman field in 12.69.

Maggie Ewen upset world champion Chase Ealey in the shot put by throwing 20.45 meters, upping her personal best by more than three feet. Ewen went from 12th-best in American history to third behind 2016 Olympic champion Michelle Carter and Ealey.

Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic ran the fastest women’s 400m since the Tokyo Olympics, clocking 48.98 seconds. Paulino is the Olympic and world silver medalist. Olympic and world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas is on a maternity break.

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy won the 800m in 1:44.75, beating a field that included most of the top Americans in the event. Notably absent was 2019 World champion Donovan Brazier, who hasn’t raced since July 20 of last year amid foot problems.

CJ Allen won the 400m hurdles in a personal best 47.91, consolidating his argument as the second-best American in the event behind Olympic and world silver medalist Rai Benjamin, who withdrew from the meet earlier this week.

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Primoz Roglic set to win Giro d’Italia over Geraint Thomas

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 20
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Primož Roglič all but secured the Giro d’Italia title on Saturday by overtaking leader Geraint Thomas on the penultimate stage despite having a mechanical problem on the mountain time trial.

Roglič started the stage 26 seconds behind Thomas — who was trying to become the oldest Giro champion in history — but finished the route 40 seconds quicker than the British cyclist after the demanding climb of the Monte Lussari.

That saw Roglič move into the leader’s pink jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Thomas going into the race’s mainly ceremonial final stage.

Roglič was cheered on all the way by thousands of fans from just across the border to his native Slovenia. They packed the slopes of the brutal ascent up Monte Lussari, which had an elevation of more than 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

The 33-year-old Roglič celebrated at the end with his wife and son, who was wearing a replica of the pink jersey.

“Just something amazing, eh? It’s not at the end about the win itself, but about the people, and the energy here, so incredible, really moments to live and to remember,” said Roglič, who had tears in his eyes during the post-stage television interview, which he did with his son in his arms.

It will be a fourth Grand Tour victory for Roglič, who won the Spanish Vuelta three years in a row from 2019-2021

Roglič also almost won the Tour de France in 2020, when he was leading going into another mountain time trial on the penultimate stage. But that time it was Roglič who lost time and the race to compatriot Tadej Pogačar in one of the most memorable upsets in a Grand Tour in recent years.

It appeared as if the Jumbo-Visma cyclist’s hopes were evaporating again when he rode over a pothole about halfway through the brutal climb up Monte Lussari and his chain came off, meaning he had to quickly change bicycles.

His teammates and staff had their hands over their heads in disbelief.

Despite that setback, Roglič — who had been 16 seconds ahead of Thomas at the previous intermediate time check — went on to increase his advantage.

“I dropped the chain, I mean it’s part of it,” he said. “But I got started again and I just went … I had the legs, the people gave me extra (energy).”

The 33-year-old Roglič won the stage ahead of Thomas. Joao Almeida was third, 42 seconds slower.

For Thomas, his bad luck at the Giro continued. In 2017, he was involved in a crash caused by a police motorbike, and three years later he fractured his hip after a drinks bottle became lodged under his wheel – being forced to abandon both times.

Thomas turned 37 on Thursday. The Ineos Grenadiers cyclist had seemed poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history — beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

“I could feel my legs going about a kilometer and a half from the top. I just didn’t feel I had that real grunt,” Thomas said. “I guess it’s nice to lose by that much rather than a second or two, because that would be worse I think.

“At least he smashed me and to be honest Primoz deserves that. He had a mechanical as well, still put 40 seconds into me so chapeau to him. If you’d told me this back in (February), March, I would have bit your hand off but now I’m devastated.”

Thomas and Roglič exchanged fist bumps as they waited their turn to ride down the ramp at the start of the 11.6-mile time trial.

The Giro will finish in Rome on Sunday, with 10 laps of a seven-mile circuit through the streets of the capital, taking in many of its historic sites.

“One more day to go, one more focus, because I think the lap is quite hard, technical. So it’s not over til it’s finished,” Roglič said. “But looks good, voila.”

The route will pass by places such as the Altare della Patria, the Capitoline Hill, the Circus Maximus and finish at the Imperial Forums, in the shadow of the Colosseum.

The Tour de France starts July 1, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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