U.S. ice dancers rise to Olympic podium after setting BTS as role model

February 20, 2018
U.S. figure skaters Maia and Alex Shibutani perform their free dance at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics figure skating ice dance competition at Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

U.S. figure skaters Maia and Alex Shibutani perform their free dance at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics figure skating ice dance competition at Gangneung Ice Arena on Feb. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)

By Kim Boram

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) — U.S. ice dance skaters of Maia and Alex Shibutani, two-time bronze medalists at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, said Tuesday that K-pop boy band BTS motivated them to work hard and reach the top in their own sport.

The siblings, known as the “Shib Sibs,” took bronze with a clean free dance totaling 192.59 points in the figure skating ice dance competition. A week ago, they won bronze in the figure skating team event.

Maia and Alex are two of the big fans of BTS among athletes competing at the PyeongChang Olympics. Other fans include figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR), who also loves EXO.

In a recent picture shared on Twitter by Alex, the two can be seen holding Team USA hats knitted with the names of the members of the popular Korean boy band.

Alex said he has so much respect for what the South Korean dancers have accomplished in their discipline because BTS has been one of the most successful Korean boy bands in the United States.

With their hit song “Mic Drop,” BTS has the record for being the longest-lasting K-pop artist on the Billboard chart.

“We have a lot of respect (for BTS). It’s so excited that we saw them in the billboard in the Time Square,” said Alex. “As a young kid growing up in the U.S., as an Asian American kid growing up, you don’t see a lot of Asians, people that look like you, profiled in such a significant way.”

As a rare Asian and brother-sister ice dance team, the Shibutani pair has struggled with prejudice and criticism. They wanted to be like BTS, who made their presence felt in the western world.

“When we started competing internationally, we are really different, but we had to be better, be beyond criticism,” he said. “A lot of people don’t really know BTS. But they’re good. People recognize talent, skills and ability. We relate to that.”

At their first Olympics, they have hit the podium and reached closer to the status they hoped for.

“I feel like, the audience, people, locals and fans from those country have embraced us and supported us as their own,” he said. “We really appreciated the warmth that we felt from the Korean fans, volunteers at the village and venues. So awesome. We love their enthusiasm.”

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