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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

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

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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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Adam Rippon, Shibutanis to miss figure skating worlds

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Adam Rippon and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani withdrew from the world figure skating championships in three weeks, joining a list of Olympic medalists who will miss the event in Milan, Italy.

Rippon is replaced by Max Aaron, who joins PyeongChang Olympians Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou in making up the three-man U.S. team.

Aaron was the third alternate behind Sochi Olympian Jason Brown and U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner, who passed on the worlds spot after Rippon gave it up. A rep for Rippon did not specify why he decided against worlds.

Rippon, an Olympic team event bronze medalist, said after he finished 10th in singles in PyeongChang that he didn’t know if he would compete at worlds.

Many skaters skip the world championships after the Olympics due to exhaustion or off-the-ice opportunities.

The Shibutani siblings were the lone Americans to earn Olympic medals outside of the team event. They said earlier this week that they were unsure if they would compete at worlds.

They are replaced in the worlds field by Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who were fourth at nationals.

Other notable skaters missing worlds:

Patrick Chan (CAN) — Widely reported to have retired
Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) — Retired
Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — Possibly retiring
Javier Fernandez (ESP) — Possibly retiring

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