WEST ALLIS, Wis. - Many people are amazed when they learn U.S. long track speedskating coach Ryan Shimabukuro was born in Hawaii.
"I still get people who can't believe it," Shimabukuro said Sunday on the final day of the singles distance long track speedskating competition. "They ask me, 'Where's your shorts? Where's your sunglasses.' But really, it's been nothing but a great reception from people who can't get over that I'm from Hawaii and coaching speedskating."
Shani Davis won two gold and two silver medals in the last two Winter Olympics. The Chicago skater is effusive in his praise for Shimabukuro, whom Davis consults after every race even though he has his own coach.
Hawaii-born Ryan Shimabukuro likely will coach in his third Winter Olympics in 2014.
"There's no one on the ice who dedicates their lives more to the sport than Ryan," Davis said. "I like Ryan as a coach and as a real positive role model and figure. He's been there for all the athletes. We try to reciprocate that love and mutual respect for him when we skate hard and get our results."
His close relationship with skaters stands in sharp contrast to the current upheaval in short track speedskating, which in October led to the resignations of coach Jae Su Chun and his assistant, Jun Hyung Cho. They stepped down over allegations by skaters of physical, emotional and verbal abuse and of ordering skater Simon Cho to sabotage the skates of a Canadian rival during a World Cup meet.
Shimabukuro's own dedication to skating began in 1980 when he watched Eric Heiden win five gold medals at the Lake Placid Olympics. Shimabukuro began skating at Ice Palace Hawaii, the state's only ice rink. He became so passionate about the sport that his family moved to Waukesha, Wis., in 1989 when he was in high school so he could begin serious training.
Shimabukuro never made an Olympic team as a skater and quit competition in 1998. But before he could return home was named the Midwest's development coach. Seven years later he became the junior team national coach and in 2002 the head of the senior team.
In 2006, Shimabukuro became the first athlete or coach from Hawaii to participate in a Winter Olympics. And in a sport in which coaching longevity is rare, Shimabukuro is headed for his third Olympics in 2014.
Shimabukuro has a simple explanation for his success.
"I never forget that my job is to get the skaters where they need to go. It's not about me. It's about the athletes," he said. "I get great buy-in from the athletes and, lo and behold, year after year, I've been producing results."