U.S. Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani celebrate “Thank You, PyeongChang” youth mentorship program with Korean students of Jinbu Middle School

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Two-time Olympic bronze medalists in ice dance, Maia and Alex Shibutani, today met the students of Jinbu Middle School in the culmination of a youth sport mentorship program launched in August by the U.S. Olympic Committee, in partnership with the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) and Jinbu Middle School. 

The event at the PyeongChang House in Gangneung celebrated the six-month relationship between the Shibutanis and the students, and included a final lesson on the Olympic experience, certificate ceremony, gift exchange, photo shoot and remarks from Alan Ashley, U.S. Olympic Committee chief of sport performance and Chef de Mission for 2018 Olympic Winter Games, representatives from POCOG, and the Shibutanis. 

With POCOG’s assistance, the students attended the ice dance free dance and saw Maia and Alex secure a bronze medal, but today’s event marked the first time the Shibutanis and the students met in person.

“Our Olympic experience on and off the ice has been incredible,” said Maia Shibutani. "For the past six months, we have built a bond with the students that was only made possible because of the Olympic Games. Today there were happy tears, lots of hugs, and laughter. Spending time with the students was amazing, and we are very grateful to have had the opportunity to represent Team USA.”

As part of the USOC’s “Thank You, PyeongChang” initiative – a goodwill campaign aimed to contribute to the positive legacy of the PyeongChang Games, to say thank you to the people of South Korea for hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and to make an impact on the global community through the spirit of Olympism – Maia and Alex participated in a learning exchange with the students highlighted by monthly video chat sessions.

After launching the program with an announcement video in August on the first day of school in Korea, Maia and Alex hosted a live video mentorship chat each month from September 2017 through January 2018. The two-way knowledge exchange featured the Shibutanis sharing inspiration and guidance on the Olympic Movement, and the students teaching the athletes about their culture. Topics covered in the sessions included: history, health and nutrition, values and culture, setting and achieving goals, and excitement for the 2018 Games.

In addition, many Team USA athletes – including skier David Wise and figure skater Mirai Nagasu – participated in the program and shared their enthusiasm with the students through video messages (seen here and here).

To assist with the delivery of the program, the POCOG Education team provided essential support including the facilitation and coordination of the video chat sessions, guidance on the lesson plans, and promotion of the mentor program across all relevant education channels locally.

It is a wonderful opportunity for the students of Jinbu Middle School to be part of the ‘Thank You, PyeongChang’ program and to have the opportunity to see the Shibutani siblings compete, win a medal and then be able to talk to them in person,” said Mr. LEE Hee-beom, President of POCOG. “This will stay with them forever and it has really helped bring them closer to winter sports and be more educated about top level sport and what it takes to be an Olympian.

The mentorship program was supplemented by many additional activities, which started at the One Year Countdown in February 2017 and featured engagement in Korea by many notable athletes, including snowboarder Chloe Kim and 13 members of the U.S. Bobsled & Skeleton Team. In all, 29 U.S. athletes participated in seven community outreach events in Korea, supported by and in partnership with POCOG and the U.S. State Department. Planning is underway for U.S. Paralympic athletes to participate in POCOG school outreach activities during the Paralympic Winter Games. 

About the USOC
Founded in 1894 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the United States Olympic Committee serves as both the National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee for the United States. As such, the USOC is responsible for the training, entering and funding of U.S. teams for the Olympic, Paralympic, Youth Olympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games, while serving as a steward of the Olympic and Paralympic movements throughout the country. For more information, visit TeamUSA.org

About the POCOG education program
The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games Curriculum was designed to help excite, inform and engage students across the Republic of Korea in the countdown to the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The education team has been working since 2015 to develop lesson plans; multi-media classroom materials; a catalogue of videos and attending key education festivals and visiting schools across the length and breadth of the country. The PyeongChang Education program has directly engaged over 1.3 million students with a further 5 million students having taken part in some form of the program over past 2 years.  For more information, please visit: www.pyeongchang2018.com/education

About Alex and Maia Shibutani
Maia and Alex, a brother-and-sister duo, are often referred to as the “Shib Sibs.” The two-time Olympians won two bronze medals at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, one in the figure skating team event and one in ice dance.  They have medaled at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships for 14 consecutive years, at every level and every year they have competed. Maia, 23, and Alex, 26, live in Ann Arbor, Mich.

About Jinbu Middle School
Jinbu Middle School is a historic establishment located in the heart of the Olympic action. Founded in 1952, the public middle school currently has 214 students enrolled, ranging in age from 13-15. The school upholds a history of excellence in student education, winning various accolades for its programs and administration. For over 65 years, the staff of Jinbu Middle School has provided students with the inspiration and motivation to become future leaders generation after generation.