Team USA athletes celebrated the one-year countdown to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games by sharing the Olympic spirit, forging new friendships and giving back to the communities preparing to host the world in PyeongChang, South Korea. A number of notable U.S. athletes and 2018 hopefuls – including snowboarding halfpipe sensation Chloe Kim and the ice dancing duo of Maia and Alex Shibutani – visited the mountains of PyeongChang for test events and took time out of busy competition schedules to host clinics and build relationships with the people of South Korea as Team USA ambassadors.
Kim, the two-time Winter Youth Olympic Games gold medalist, represented Team USA as a U.S. Department of State Sports Envoy in Seoul on Feb. 8 and PyeongChang on Feb. 10. As a first generation Korean-American athlete, Kim expressed her excitement for the upcoming Games in Korea, where she always receives a warm welcome from friends and family.
“I loved the opportunity to meet so many amazing people in Korea – everyone was so welcoming and friendly,” said Kim. “They’re doing an incredible job preparing for the Olympics and I’m excited for the chance to come back and compete here next year.”
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Kim spent time in the community engaging with locals and fellow athletes. She made new friends with members of the South Korean Olympic team during a visit to Korea’s National Olympic Training Center, and spoke to 300 high school students about her story and the power of the Olympic Movement at a model UN event as a special guest of the PyeongChang Olympic Organizing Committee. And she hosted a clinic for local youth snowboarders in the mountains of PyeongChang with hopes of inspiring the next generation of Olympians.
The Shibutanis also served as sports envoys while in Korea in February. The two-time world medalists spent two days participating in cultural exchanges and extending goodwill to help strengthen ties between Team USA and the people of Korea.
In the spirit of giving back and embracing Korean culture, they led an ice skating clinic for young Korean skaters at the Lotte World Department Store in Seoul, visited Seoul Arts School where they learned traditional Korean dance, learned to prepare Korean Buddhist food with renowned monk/chef Sun Jae, and participated in a forum hosted by the U.S. Embassy to discuss sportsmanship and youth empowerment with Korean high school and college students.
“It was an honor to represent our country as sports envoys,” said Alex Shibutani. “Everyone we met was very welcoming and it was exciting to learn more about Korean culture while sharing our experiences as athletes preparing for our second Olympic Games.”
Maia Shibutani continued: “There is so much positivity and excitement surrounding the upcoming year and we left Korea very inspired.”
Four-time Olympic speedskater KC Boutiette, three-time Olympic snowboarding medalist Kelly Clark, Olympic halfpipe skier Annalisa Drew, Olympic snowboarder Arielle Gold and Olympic slopestyle skiing silver medalist Devin Logan also contributed to Team USA’s goodwill efforts through community events in Korea. Boutiette hosted an on-ice clinic for more than 30 local youth skaters in Gangneung, where ice sports will be held during the 2018 Games. The ski and snowboard athletes shared their journeys to the Games and their enthusiasm for PyeongChang at an Embassy Youth Forum with university students in Seoul.
“It has been incredible to welcome Team USA athletes to Korea and watch them engage with the community while spreading the Olympic and Paralympic spirit,” said Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Marc Knapper of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. “We’re looking forward to following their progress over the coming year, and then cheering them on when they return to Korea for the 2018 Games in PyeongChang."
Cultural exchanges and community outreach by Team USA athletes serve to share Team USA’s support and gratitude as PyeongChang organizers continue preparing to host the world at next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.