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[SPORTS] Shanell Noji - Japanese American Skater's Success

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  • madchinaman
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2004
      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!
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