With less than six months to go until the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games 2018, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has launched a Korean youth mentorship programme which will see Olympic ice dancers Maia and Alex Shibutani mentor young students both virtually and in person in the months leading up to the Games.
The programme will run in partnership with the PyeongChang Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2018 (POCOG) as well as Jinbu Middle School and is part of the USOC’s “Thank you, PyeongChang” initiative. The campaign aims to contribute to the positive legacy of the PyeongChang Games, to say thank you to the people of the Republic of Korea for hosting the world this February and March and to make an impact on the global community through the spirit of Olympism.
Maia and Alex Shibutani will begin their mentorship lessons with the students of Jinbu Middle School via video chat in September before meeting the students in person in February. It is a two-way partnership though, with the students aiming to teach the brother and sister ice dancing duo about Korean culture and what athletes and supporters can expect when PyeongChang 2018 begins in February. The valuable lessons imparted by the students, aged between 13 and 15 years old, will be incorporated into the Team USA Ambassador Programme, which includes athlete training sessions that all members of the 2018 US Olympic and Paralympic team will attend in order to prepare them in the best possible way for when they arrive in the Republic of Korea.
We’re very passionate about the Olympic Movement and the Olympic values and we believe in their power to inspire and unite younger generations throughout the world.Alex Shibutani USA
The Shibutanis are amongst the best ice dancers in the world, having finished in ninth place at the Olympic Winter Games 2014 in Sochi, and having won three world championship medals in the past six years. The pair were carefully selected by the USOC, with CEO Scott Blackman highlighting that the pair were a fitting choice because they “personify the spirit of the Olympic Movement”.
Maia and Alex, who hail from Ann Arbor in Michigan, kicked off the programme by releasing a video for the students to coincide with the first day of the 2017-18 school year. In it, the pair spoke of their excitement about teaching their mentees about topics such as the Olympic values, health and nutrition, and what it takes to be Olympians, while they also expressed their enthusiasm for being given the opportunity to learn about Korean culture as they prepare to compete at PyeongChang 2018.
“We are so excited to be mentors to students who could be the next generation of Olympians in Korea,” Alex, 26, said. “We’re very passionate about the Olympic Movement and the Olympic values and we believe in their power to inspire and unite younger generations throughout the world. To be able to share this passion with the students of Jinbu Middle School is a huge honour.” Maia, 23, added: “To be able to learn about Korean culture and connect with the children of PyeongChang is very special. We can’t wait to get to know them and share what we learn with our Team USA team-mates, as well as share our experiences as Olympians and Team USA’s excitement to be in PyeongChang.”
To be able to learn about Korean culture and connect with the children of PyeongChang is very special. We can’t wait to get to know them and share what we learn with our Team USA team-mates, as well as share our experiences as Olympians and Team USA’s excitement to be in PyeongChang.Maia Shibutani USA
Lee Hee-Beom, President of the Games Organising Committee, believes that the “Thank you, PyeongChang” initiative will be hugely beneficial for the students and will complement the work being carried out throughout the Republic of Korea in the lead-up to PyeongChang 2018. “The USOC’s initiative around mentorship of local students is a wonderful addition to the work we are doing with schools across the country in the lead-up to the Games,” he said. “This is an amazing opportunity for the pupils of Jinbu Middle School to interact with, learn from and then meet Olympic athletes from the United States, and we hope that this will inspire many of them to take up winter sports and also give them a better understanding of the Olympic values.”