By Michelle Phipps-Evans
The 2014 Olympic Winter Games—the 22nd Winter Olympics—will run from Feb. 6 to 23 in Sochi, Russia, marking the first time the Russian Federation will host the winter games.
Team USA will send several athletes, and among them there are several Asian Americans representing the country. Who are they?
J.R. Celski is a short track speed skater. Born in Monterey, Calif., in 1990, to Robert and Susan Celski, he is half Filipino and half Polish. He was raised in Federal Way, WA, alongside two brothers, Chris and David. At the age of 14, Celski moved to Long Beach, Calif., to pursue the Olympic Dream. In 2008, he graduated from Lakewood High School and was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley. He put school on hold to skate full time. At the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, he won two bronze medals in the men’s 500m relay and the 1500m. He was on the 2009 to 2013 World Championship Team and is the seven-time world championship medalist (one gold, two silver and four bronze). He was also on the 2006, and 2008-09 junior world championship team. As one of his interests, Celski started a production company in 2010 called M.A.D. Northwest that produced a film entitled “The Otherside” focusing on the Seattle hip hop scene. Celski’s quest to become a two-time Olympian will get going at the 2014 games.
Julie Chu, 31, is an ice hockey forward who has earned three Olympic medals (Salt Lake City 2002 – silver; Torino 2006 – bronze; Vancouver 2010 – silver) and is seeking her first gold in Sochi. Chu is the first member of the women’s national team to win five world championships, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Playing with the U.S. women’s national team since 2000, Chu is the first Asian American woman to play for the U.S. ice hockey team. The 2007 graduate from Harvard University is currently serving as an assistant coach to the Union College women’s ice hockey team. Chu, who grew up in Connecticut, is mixed. Her father is Chinese and her mother is half-Chinese and Puerto Rican. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing golf.
Madison Chock, who is of Hawaiian-Chinese descent, is one half of an ice dance skating team with Evan Bates. Dancing together since 2011, the team was the 2013 U.S. silver medalists and the 2013 four Continents bronze medalists. The 21-year-old Chock who grew up in Redondo Beach, Calif., has been skating since she was five. In 2012, Chock was the Nebelhorn Trophy gold medalist and the 2011 Finlandia Trophy bronze medalist, both with Bates. She began skating with Greg Zuerlein and won the Skate Canada bronze medal in 2011 and was the 2008 Junior Grand Prix final champion with him as well. Both Chock and Bates had successful partnerships and careers before joining forces in July 2011. Their recent achievements include two bronze medals on the 2013 Grand Prix circuit (Rostelcom Cup and Cup of China) and a silver medal at the 2013 Finlandia Trophy. They are the 2013 and 2014 U.S. National Silver Medalists.
Maia and Alex Shibutani
Maia and Alex Shibutani are a sibling ice dance team from Ann Arbor, Michigan. They are the 2011 world bronze medalists, the U.S. silver medalists in 2011 and 2012, and bronze medalists in 2013. Their competitive career started in 2005 with a silver medal in juvenile ice dance at the U.S. Junior Championships during their very first year competing in the sport. The following two seasons they captured back-to-back U.S. national titles competing at the next levels – intermediate (2006) and novice levels (2007). In 2011, the pair became the first ice dancing team to medal at both of their Grand Prix assignments in their first year as seniors and the first U.S. ice dancing team to medal in their debut at the World Championships. The Japanese Americans are also the only ice dance team of Asian heritage to win a medal at a major ISU Championship – 2011 Four Continents Championships, 2011 World Championships. In 2012, the now-19-year-old Maia and the now-22-year-old Alex launched their official YouTube channel “ShibSibs” Productions. Their channel includes original videos which Maia and Alex have filmed, directed and edited – which have thus far garnered more than 810,000 views. Alex has been the five-time winner of the Universal Sports’ “Tweet of the Week.” Maia received the Women’s Sports Foundation Travel & Training Grant in 2012. They both attend the University of Michigan.
This year, Felicia Zhang and her partner, Nathan Bartholomay will compete together as pairs- figure skaters for the first time at the Olympics. They began skating together in partnership in May 2011, starting out by competing at Grand Prix events Skate America, and the 2013 Cup of China, finishing 7th and 6th, before taking 4th at the 2013 Four Continents Championships, and the silver medal at the 2014 U.S. Championships which landed them a spot on the Olympic team. Zhang, 20, was raised in Riverdale, NY, and graduated from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South in 2011. As a singles skater Zhang won the novice bronze medal at the 2008 U.S. Championships, and placed 6th on the junior level at the 2010 U.S. Championships. Her first competition pairs partner was Taylor Toth. They won the junior gold medal at the 2010 U.S. Championships and later withdrew from the 2011 event when to Zhang suffered a rib injury and the team announced a split in 2011. Zhang innocently started skating at the age of 7 after attending a skating birthday party.
Jen Yung Lee
Jen Yung Lee, 27, will compete as a goalie in sled hockey at the Paralympics games following the Olympic Games in Sochi. He is part of the 18-man U.S. team He was the 2012 U.S. National Sled Hockey team member. He was a gold medalist at the International Paralympic Committee’s Ice Sledge Hockey Championship, also in 2012. And he was the U.S. National Sled Hockey team member, was a silver medalist in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, and was in the Midwest Sled Hockey League Championship, all in 2011.
In 2009, Lee’s left leg was amputated above the knee when he was injured in a motorcycle accident. Lee had no ice hockey background, and had to learn it from scratch. He was a member of the San Antonio Rampage sled hockey club from 2009-11, and played basketball at Chaminade University during the 2006-07 season. He was introduced to sled hockey by Operation Comfort, an organization dedicated to assisting injured U.S. service personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He used to be a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter mechanic. Now he’s a full-time athlete, a veteran who represents the military and his country as a sled hockey goaltender.