Olympians on leading ‘with a champion mind’

Kristi Yamaguchi photo courtesy of Always Dream Foundation

While training in Colorado Springs, Colo. as kids, Maia Shibutani and her brother, Alex, received eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno’s autograph on a McDonald’s bag. The two-time Olympic bronze medalists, affectionately known as the “Shib Sibs” off the ice rink, said it was an “honor” to share the same panel as moderator Ohno and Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi for AARP’s “Leading with a Champion Mind” virtual event Dec. 16.

“I think for us gaining a sense of perspective and realizing that whatever you’re trying to accomplish, there are going to be hurdles along the way, that it’s not always easy and positive,” Maia Shibutani said on resiliency. She added that she’s grateful to have her brother by her side.

The siblings said their ice skating coach, Marina Zoueva, was their biggest motivator and helped shape their “champion mind.” Zoueva “gave us the power to be creative and realize our own strengths…,” Maia Shibutani said. “Having that mindset of being able to learn from more people helps build community and can really help you as you try and pursue your goals,” she added.

Yamaguchi also credited her coach, Christine Ness, for helping shape her “champion mind.” Yamaguchi said she learned many life lessons from Ness, including work ethic and possessing mental toughness to prepare for competitions.

Discussing the rise in anti-Asian hate amid the pandemic and a path forward, Alex Shibutani said the siblings are “trying to step up during this time of need for our collective community and use our voices to bring attention to the situation because so many people have been and continue to be unaware…” He said they try to “utilize the Internet for good” and “share positivity” as misinformation and hate can spread online.

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