By Jason J. Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Winter Olympics begin on Friday, Feb. 7, in Sochi, Russia. Asian American athletes will be well represented, and here is a list of APIs to look for in the coming weeks.
Chock is a 21-year-old ice dancer from Torrance, Calif., now living in Michigan. Her father is of Hawaiian Chinese descent. Chock began skating when she was just 5 years old. At 12, someone suggested that she try ice dancing. After a successful five-year partnership with her first skating partner, she found a new partner in Evan Bates. The two have been skating together since 2011 and have won various competitions across the world. The duo won the silver medal at the 2014 U.S. Championships and were named to the U.S. team.
Alex and Maia Shibutani are a sibling ice-dancing duo that will compete in the doubles competition in Sochi. Their parents met at Harvard as musicians and the duo has learned to take their parents’ talent for rhythm and precision to the ice rink. Alex, 22, and Maia, 19, started as individual skaters at first and then decided to partner up. The two first began competing together in 2004. In their first season competing together, they won the silver medal at the U.S. Junior Championships. The two have been successful ever since, as they have competed as a team for about 10 years. Not only has their career been a success on the ice, but in 2012, they were invited by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to attend a dinner in honor of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
The Shibutanis won the bronze medal at the 2014 U.S. Championships and were named to the U.S. Olympic team. They are both currently students at the University of Michigan.
Zhang is a 20-year-old Chinese American figure skater from Ellenton, Fla., by way of New Jersey. She will be competing in her first Olympics and is teaming with Nathan Bartholomay in doubles ice skating in Sochi.
Zhang began skating after attending a skating party at the age of 7. Although she has only teamed up with Bartholomay since 2011, they placed second in the U.S World Championships and were picked to represent the United States. Zhang is currently a student at the University of Southern Florida.
Chu is a 31-year-old hockey forward for the United States women’s team. She is the first Asian American woman to play for the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team. Chu is a veteran of the Olympics, having played in 2002, 2006, and 2010, making this her fourth appearance in the Winter Olympics. She will be the oldest Olympic women’s hockey player in U.S. history. In fact, she is four years older than the next oldest player on the U.S. team.
Chu is a veteran of women’s hockey having played for Harvard. She won the Patty Kazmaier Award for best collegiate hockey player. She was the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history and was the team captain.
Chu will bring a lot of experience to this year’s team, which will be searching for a medal.
Picking up the skates where Apolo Anton Ohno left off, Federal Way native J.R. Celski looks to add to the two bronze medals he won at the Vancouver Olympics. Celski, 23, was a standout at the U.S. Championships, which determines the short track team. He will compete in the 500, 1,000, and 1,5000 meter short track races at the Olympics.
Celski, who is part Filipino, could be the media darling on the short track. He has over 5,800 Instagram followers and nearly 20,000 Twitter followers. He also touts sponsors including Nike, Oakley, and TD Ameritrade.
Although the Paralympics are lesser known, it will begin after the Olympics end. It is for athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities. Among the U.S. representatives for the Paralympics is goalie Jen Lee, a member of the Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. Lee, 28, had his left leg amputated above the knee when he was injured in a motorcycle accident in 2009. However, he did not let this unfortunate accident deter him. A sergeant in the United States Army, he was introduced to the game of sled hockey through a program assisting injured U.S service personnel. Lee has played since 2010. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.