[SPORTS] Shanell Noji - Japanese American Skater's Success
- Shanell Noji: An Accomplished Skater on Her Way to Portland
Sixteen-year old Shanell Noji will face Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen,
and other top U.S. skaters at her first, senior level national
championship in January 2005.
Shanell Noji has made it to the big time of figure skating. Thanks
to her fourth-place finish at Pacific Coast sectionals last weekend,
she will compete at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in
Portland, Oregon in January. It will be her first time competing at
the senior level. She will compete against some of the best figure
skaters in the world, including five-time world champion Michelle
Kwan and reigning world silver medalist Sasha Cohen. Her other
competitors at Nationals will include fellow Californians Beatrisa
Liang, Amber Corwin, and Yebin Mok.
Shanell's parents are both of Japanese ancestry and born in the
United States. Her father was born and raised in Hawaii, and her
mother was born and raised in California. Shanell's mother skated a
little as a child but was in her words, "the worst skater," with
weak ankles and a need to cling to the boards. Luckily, Shanell has
been blessed with the talent for skating.
Shanell was born May 10, 1988 in Fullerton, California. Her skating
career began in 1995, when at age six, she had "so much energy" that
her mother put her in different sports to keep her busy. Shanell
tried soccer, swimming, gymnastics, ballet, and ice skating,
ultimately choosing ice skating, "because it was more of a self-
determined sport as opposed to a team sport." One of her most
embarrassing skating moments occurred early on, when she was
competing at the pre-preliminary level. "I was going out to skate
to my beginning pose, and I slipped, got up as quickly as possible,
and started my program," Shanell remembers of that competition. "I
remember asking my coach if I get a deduction for falling before my
program even begins."
When Shanell was nine, her mother tried to learn to skate, but she
quit after a few lessons after falling once. Shanell's father
skated a little, as did her brother, but none of them seriously
pursued the sport as Shanell did. She even proved herself to be
serious in academics, graduating from high school earlier this year
througn independent studies. At age 16, she takes classes at
Fullerton College (she currently is taking Psychology) and combines
it with her skating schedule. In her spare time, she likes going to
the movies, shopping, and spending time with family and friends.
Shanell has gradually and consistently climbed her way up through
the competitive ranks. One of the highlights of her skating career
has been her winning the silver medal at the 2001 national
championships at the novice level. That competition took place in
Boston, and her competitors included Jennifer Don (now a senior
level competitor in both singles and pairs) and Kelsey Drewel. At
the 2003 national championships, Shanell placed seventh at the
junior level. Then, in January 2004, Shanell placed fifth in the
junior level competition in Atlanta. This past September, Shanell
represented the United States at the Junior Grand Prix competition
in Budapest, Hungary. Unfortunately, she got sick right before the
competition and spent most of the trip sleeping off her illness.
She was 13th in the short program and 6th in the long program,
placing tenth overall.
"I didn't get to do any site seeing until the day before we left.
During the week, Matt [her coach] would go site seeing and show me
pictures afterwards," she recalls. "I didn't skate as well as I
hoped to, but it was nice to see how I compare with girls in
different countries, and meet new people."
This season, skaters at international competitions have been judged
under a new judging system called the Code of Points. This system
dispenses with the traditional 6.0 judging system, and skaters earn
points for every element that they do well. When asked for her
thoughts on the new judging system, Shanell replies, "I think with
the new judging system the skaters will be forced to not only have
jumps, but have good spins, presentation as well. It'll make our
skaters more well-rounded, and bring back the beauty of the sport."
Shanell feels that her spins are one of her strongest points.
Indeed, her layback spin, described in the past by skating fans
as "impressive," is among the best in the world. She has great arch
in her back and extension in her free leg in this spin. She also
performs a big Russian split jump. Other skating fans have
described her skating as "exuberant" and "powerful," reminiscent of
former U.S. silver medalist Naomi Nari Nam and 1992 Olympic silver
medalist Midori Ito.
Like most competitive skaters, Shanell's skating goals are to go to
the Olympics and World Championships. In terms of her other life
goals, she would like to become a sports psychologist.
Matt Smith, a ten-time Canadian national competitor, is Shanell's
current coach. "I just started working with him this summer, and
it's been hard adjusting to his training program," Shanell says of
her new coach. "We both are very strong personalities, are very
outspoken people, and have very different views on training and
skating, so it may be interesting to watch us work together."
Shanell is a member of the All Year Figure Skating Club and trains
in southern California, not too far from Michelle Kwan. When asked
whether she thinks Michelle Kwan has a shot at winning gold at the
2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, she responds, "I definitely think
Michelle Kwan has a great chance of winning gold in the 2006
Olympics. I admire her greatly for being able to maintain her
inspirational skating for so many years."
Shanell has been to Portland, Oregon once to visit her aunt and
uncle, but she does not remember it much. This upcoming visit to
Portland for the national championships is sure to be
memorable. "This year I've worked extremely hard, and I'm glad it
paid off," she says. "Making it to Nationals my first year in
Senior was a goal for me this year. Now I'm going to enjoy myself
at Nationals and skate to my best ability." AsianAthlete.com wishes
her the best of luck in Portland. Tune in to AsianAthlete.com in
January to read news about Shanell Noji's performance at Nationals!