PODCAST: On a journey from sand to ice, Hawaii speedskating coach strikes gold at Olympics

Kalihi boy Ryan Shimabukuro explains how he got to be an speedskating coach and expresses joy over athlete's success.
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 11:33 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2022 at 5:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - From beaches to the ice, Hawaii speedskating coach Ryan Shimabukuro took the unexpected route from Kalihi to Beijing to win gold with one of his skaters in the Winter Olympics.

Erin Jackson — who won gold in the women’s 500 meter race and is the first Black woman to win a speedskating medal in the Winter Olympics — is one of six athletes Shimabukuro is coaching in the Winter Games.

“All the emotions just came rushing out, we were so happy, she was stunned, she was speechless, breaks down and cries and then a second later, she’s fine,” Shimabukuro said. “It wasn’t until the next night, when she actually got her gold medal, where all the emotions really came out.”

“You feel the weight of the gold medal, you see the flag raising, you hear the national anthem, you feel the national pride.”

You might be wondering: How did someone from Hawaii end up coaching an ice sport?

Shimabukuro started skating at the Ice Palace as a child and had his own Olympic aspirations.

“For me, the Olympics are more symbolic of chasing after a dream,” Shimabukuro said.

His family even moved to the mainland to support his dream, inspired by Olympic great Eric Heiden.

“A little kid from Hawaii, from Kalihi, 6 years old, watching the greatest speedskater ever on TV, gets inspired by this moment, by the greatest speedskating Olympic accomplishment ever,” Shimabukuro said. “Who would have thought that 40 something years later, here I would be standing where I am?”

His own skating career was derailed by health issues as he battled multiple bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. According to the Associated Press, he also suffered a heart attack a few summers ago — in his 40s.

But one thing’s for sure — he’s had a huge impact as a coach.

Another one of his skaters, Joey Mantia, also recently won a bronze medal. He’s coaching three more races coming up, with more chances to medal.

“I’m really excited for our team. I’m proud of them,” Shimabukuro said. “It’s one of the hardest things in the world and the stress that the athletes and the staff go to, to attain these awards for the U.S., it’s very, very demanding, so, we appreciate the support.”

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