Olympic Parents Share In the Glory and the Spotlight

No Olympic athlete makes it to the top alone.

It usually requires a major support system, and a lot of rides to and from practice.

When the cameras turn to the stands, they often find proud parents who are more nervous — or celebratory — than any of the fans at home. (Who could forget Aly Raisman’s parents nervously swaying in their seats during the 2016 Rio Olympics?)

Here are a few of the Olympic parents capturing attention during the Pyeongchang Games.

Chloe Kim, snowboarding

The American star-in-the-making, who won the gold medal in the halfpipe, visited her family’s cheering section between runs on Tuesday. Her father, Jong Jin, is a Korean immigrant who gave up his job when she was 10 to help her pursue her Olympic dreams, according to Bleacher Report.

“To see Chloe compete in the Olympics, it’s going to be very exciting and happy,” her mother, Boran Kim, told The New York Times before the event. “I think it will be the best moment of my whole life.”

Mikael Kingsbury, men’s moguls

The 25-year-old Canadian skier won the gold medal on Monday, and his parents, Julie Thibaudeau and Robert Kingsbury, were there to witness it.

The parents jumped over a fence and raced to their son to hug him, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

“We didn’t talk. We hugged forever,” his mother said. “And then I said, ‘I love you.’”

Maame Biney, speed skating

NBC captured footage of Biney’s father, Kweku Biney, reacting to her advancing to the quarterfinals of the 500-meter, standing and yelling with his arms in the air.

Maame Biney lived in Ghana until she was 5, when she moved to the United States to live with her father. In December, he cheered her on while she was securing a spot on the Olympic team, holding a sign in the stands reading: “Kick some hiney Biney.”

Hannah and Marissa Brandt, ice hockey

Greg and Robin Brandt have split loyalties: One daughter, Hannah, plays for the United States women’s hockey team, while their daughter they adopted when she was about four months old, Marissa, plays for the Korean women’s hockey team. The girls were inseparable as children, and when Hannah took up hockey instead of figure skating, Marissa soon followed, the parents told USA Today.

“To have both girls be able to go to the Olympics at the same time, it’s pretty amazing,” Robin said.

Maia and Alex Shibutani, figure skating

The American siblings who helped the United States win a bronze medal in team skating recorded a video to thank their mother, Naomi Shibutani, for her support.

Naomi met her husband, Chris, when they were Harvard musicians, according to ESPN.

“The parents are very much an integral part of what their training is,” said Patti Gottwein, who coached the siblings.

Mirai Nagasu, figure skating

Her parents, Kiyoto and Ikuko Nagasu, were working at their Japanese restaurant in Arcadia, Calif., when their daughter became the first American woman to land a triple axel during the Olympics. They were too busy to watch her team performance live, so they had to wait until they got home, Ikuko Nagasu told USA Today.

To celebrate their daughter’s accomplishments, they occasionally offer the Mirai Roll, which includes tuna, tuna tatako, avocado, mentaiko, shrimp and tempura. And they’ll close for the first time in years when she skates in the individual competition.

“The business is important, but it is special to be able to watch Mirai,” Ikuko said.

Bobby Butler, ice hockey

In January, Bobby Butler, 30, skated over to deliver the good news to his father, John Butler: He had made the Olympic team.

John Butler coached his son at Marlborough High School in Massachusetts, where he led the program for 25 years before retiring in 2011.

“Playing for my dad was awesome,” Bobby told The Metro West Daily News. “He told me what it would take. He gave me the tools.”

Kikkan Randall, cross country skiing

The 35-year-old holds the distinction of being the only American mother to compete in these Games. Her son, Breck, will turn 2 in April.

It’s far more common for men to continue with high-level sports after becoming parents — there are 20 American fathers competing this year — because of the physical toll of pregnancy. She missed a season of racing while pregnant, but continued to work out twice a day, she told HuffPost. She took off a few weeks after childbirth before returning to hiking and biking, and it took about 10 months until she felt almost ready to fully compete again.

“In some ways, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could do, but in other ways, it did take a bigger toll on my body than I would’ve guessed,” she said. “It did take some patience and diligence to work back.”

Tucker West, luge

His father, Brett West, has sent out 1,250 T-shirts to Tucker’s fans, according to NBC Washington.

He also drives around town in a “LUGE DAD” license plate. It’s not the most embarrassing thing he’s done: In 2014, he said on NBC’s “Today” that women should reach out to his “shy” and “very single” son.

Daniel Victor is a reporter on the Express Team, covering a wide variety of stories with a focus on breaking news. He joined The Times in 2012 from ProPublica. @bydanielvictor

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