Hawaii's Heroes: Ryan Shimabukuro

Hawaii's Heroes: Ryan Shimabukuro
Ryan Shimabukuro
Ryan Shimabukuro
Robbie Kimura
Robbie Kimura

By Steve Uyehara – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ryan Shimabukuro is molding some of sport's biggest names, and he's also one of Hawaii's heroes.

It was all laughs when Stephen Colbert interviewed him on "The Colbert Report" last year, but Ryan Shimabukuro wasn't joking.

How else does a kid from Kalihi end up at the Vancouver games? The youngest of four children Ryan fell in love with ice skating when he saw Eric Heiden win five individual gold medals in the 1980 Olympics.

"All I know is he was skating fast. I know he was wearing the gold suit and racing really fast. I thought it looked really cool, no pun intended" said Shimabukuro.

His mom Robbie Kimura remembers just how insatiable he became.

"He would write term papers even relating to the sport of speed skating. He studied and studied" said Kimura.

Then in 1982 Ice Palace opened its doors and Ryan got his very first taste of it all.

"I laced up my skates. I walked tentatively to the door, and stepped on the ice and obviously just held onto the wall and just got a feeling for what it was like to be on blades that were on the ice."

And that was it. He got a paper route to buy a pair of hockey skates, and shortly after enrolled in a speed skating class.

"We really thought okay, this is going to be a phase. This kid is really going to stop one day and say, "I'm going to be at the beach" said Kimura.

Nope. His mom and step father videotaped his sessions at ice palace at 4:30 every morning. They mailed the tapes to a scout in a California who would break down his technique.

At the age of 15 he was invited to a national training program, so his parents decided to sell the house, take out a loan and move out to Wisconsin to help Ryan pursue his dream.

When he came back home Ryan even taught classes. As a skater he captured national attention, but he stayed focused. He trained like a madman; running...lifting...cycling.

He didn't qualify for the 1994 Olympics, but he was skating better than ever going into 1998 games in Nagano. that is, until he came down with pneumonia.

"I knew that my skating career was basically over. I wasn't gonna ask my friends and family to support me another four years financially and emotionally, that this chapter in my life was closing."

But almost immediately some of the younger skaters asked him to stay on as a coach. Eight years later, he coached the men's Olympic sprint team in the 2006 Torino games and mom made the trip up to watch.

"His wishes and his dreams and his quest to be in a winter sport that his fulfillment was as a US Olympic speed skating coach. He had met his endeavor, his odyssey" said Kimura.

Ryan is coaching five men and three women in Vancouver, including Shani Davis and Jennifer Rodriguez. And while he doesn't know how much longer he'll continue to live his dream, his passion and determination make him one of Hawaii's heroes.

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