In August, world championship ice dancers Alex and Maia Shibutani began a video conferencing program to mentor students from Jinbu Middle School in Pyeongchang County, South Korea. In this virtual chat — a live streaming mentorship program initiated by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) — the duo expressed their excitement to teach students about topics such as health, nutrition, and Olympic responsibilities and values. In return, they learned about Korean culture from the students.
Alex, a bronze medalist in the 2011 and 2017 world championships, and silver medalist in 2016, and Maia, a 2014 Olympian, are hosting a series of monthly mentorship sessions with students through video chat. The first video call with Jinbu middle school was held in September, and the next session is planned for next month. The siblings are expected to meet the class when they come to South Korea for the Winter Games next February.
The mentorship program is part of the USOC’s “Thank You, PyeongChang” initiative, which is designed to contribute to the positive legacy of the first South Korea Winter Olympics, which will take place in February and March, 2018. This program was announced by the USOC in partnership with the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee and is part of an effort to give back to the people of South Korea for hosting the games. The lessons from the meeting between the sisters and the South Korean students will be integrated into the Team USA Ambassador Program athlete training sessions that all members of the 2018 US Olympic and Paralympic teams will attend prior to the competition.
This exchange was born out of flourishing bonds between United States and South Korea. Gangneung City, part of Pyeongchang County, has agreed to promote Loudon County of its sister state, Virginia by including advertisements in the Korean Air Magazine, and building a display case in Gangneung’s government center while the world watches the Olympics. Additionally, the US Olympic Committee and United States Force Korea (USFK) plan to hold a gala event to celebrate the Pyeongchang Olympics and show support for South Korea.
Heejae Park is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and an Asan Washington Young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul.