America's Shotaro Omori surprised even himself when he placed third at the World Junior Championships last season, completing an American sweep of the podium.
Before Worlds, Omori was flying under everyone’s radar. Though he placed second at U.S. nationals at the junior level and qualified for the World junior team, Omori had never previously medaled at an international event.
But he said that good practices prior to Worlds and a strong performance in the short program at U.S. nationals contributed to confidence. “I wanted to sort of repeat that same strong short program at Junior Worlds and when I did, I was really excited,” Omori said.
He was less confident about his free given that he had not skated a clean long program in competition in a “very long time.”
However, under the international spotlight, Omori brought his best game, earning a personal best for both his short and long programs, and ultimately earning a third place finish behind fellow Americans Joshua Farris and Jason Brown.
“When I went to Junior Worlds, I really wanted to show what I had been practicing and do great programs at my very last event of the season,” he said.
He admitted that he was a little surprised by the result, even though his coach, Tammy Gambill, had expected him to do well. “I was just ecstatic when I won the bronze medal.”
It was the first time one nation had swept the podium in the men’s event at the World Junior Championships. Omori said he felt honored to be a part of history. “It was especially exciting to do it with the guys that I look up to so much.”
Omori said his return home after the competition was very relaxed and calm. “I just went back to training with my coaches. It was back to the normal schedule,” he said.
His performances on the World stage last season have propelled the 17-year-old Californian to make the leap into the senior ranks nationally this year.
Omori will compete at two events over the summer to get a feel for his programs before he tackles the Junior Grand Prix Series. His goal is to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final. He plans to include a quadruple toe loop in his long program.
“I think a top 10 finish would be very exciting for me,” he said. “I feel like that is a realistic goal but also a challenging goal, so it kind of balances out.”
Omori knows he must improve his skating skills in order to place among the country’s top male skaters. “I’m really trying to work with my coaching team (which also includea Galina Barinova and Jon Nichols) on my skating skills and my maturity, so on the ice, I will look more like a senior skater,” he explained.
Omori is also working to improve the component scores with choreographer Cindy Stuart on his long program to “Scheherazade.”
“It’s one of my most favorite programs I’ve ever done so far,” he said. “I just love the music and the whole storyline.”
Omori admires the reigning Olympic champion, Evan Lysacek, who skated his gold medal long program to “Scheherazade.”
“Being in Southern California, I’ve been able to skate with him a couple times,” Omori said. “To be able to see the hard work he puts in, really inspires me to want to work harder.”
In 2003, Omori began skating by taking group lessons at age 8. He then started learning from a private instructor, and said it just took off from there.
He spends approximately three consecutive hours on the ice each day, in addition to a once a week ballet class and does an off-ice training class a twice a week with other skaters.
Favorite skater: Evan Lysacek
Favorite book: “The Hunger Games” series
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite jump: Triple flip
Hobby: Playing the piano. Omori started playing the piano at a young age. Although he no longer plays regularly, he said he enjoys “trying to pick up the pieces.”