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Oda Continues Ancestor’s Fighting Spirit

Nobunari Oda

Japan’s Nobunari Oda is a direct descendant of Nobuanaga Oda, a famous Japanese warlord during the sixteenth century. He showed his fighting spirit by dominating the men’s event at the 2005 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Oda easily won his qualifying round, then finished a close second to France’s Yannick Ponsero in the short, with many observers believing he should have won. Then Oda scored a personal best in the long, easily moving past Ponsero to take the gold medal by more than a ten-point margin. Oda said, “The new system has been good for me. I can try a lot of things other than just jumps. Now all the elements have value.”

Oda scored heavily with a solid triple axel and a triple lutz-triple toe loop-double loop combination to start his program. It was Oda’s first clean triple axel in competition. He had landed his first clean triple axel in practice at the beginning of the week, but did not land it during the qualifying round. Oda also landed a triple flip, salchow, and lutz and a triple loop-double toe loop and double axel-triple toe loop combinations. In his short program, Oda landed triple lutz-triple toe loop as well as a triple loop and double axel.

The Japanese junior champion for 2004-05 finished 11th at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships last year and was eighth at the 2003-04 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final. But he missed the 2004-05 JGP Final when he only finished fourth at Skate Long Beach and third at the Ukrainian Souvenir. For next season, Oda said, “I want to go to seniors and hope to join the Olympic team. I plan to skate for five more years until the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. I want to be in the Olympics and have people watch me and start skating.”

Oda, who has always been coached by his mother, Noriko Oda, began skating when he was seven because he wanted to be a skater like her. He didn’t even try any other athletic pursuits. He landed his first triple toe loop when he was thirteen and his first triple axel at Junior Worlds. “I was very happy when I landed the triple axel,” Oda said. “I have been trying for two years, but this was the first time I landed it clean. I really like jumping, especially the toe jumps. I prefer them more than edge jumps.” Oda has yet to try a quad.

The emotional 17-year-old usually trains in Osaka, Japan for two hours a day six days a week. He also trains at the Mariposa School of Skating in Barrie, Ontario, Canada several times a year. For the 2004-05 season, he trained in Barrie for a month in the summer, again in October, then came the first week of February to prepare for Junior Worlds. While in Barrie, he usually trains only five days a week. “I was really homesick when I first came there because I missed my family so much,” he said, “but I made many friends with the other skaters. He trains primarily with Lee Barkell in Barrie. Another of Barkell’s students, Jeffrey Buttle, is Oda’s favorite skater. “I like his presentation and style on the ice,” Oda said.

David Wilson choreographs Oda’s programs. “He chose the music for both of my programs,” Oda said. “They were both new for this season and next season I will have two new programs. I like to have new programs every year. I really like to skate to music like I used for the short program.” For the 2004-05 season, Oda used soundtracks for both his short and free programs, “Super Mario” for the short and “Zatoichi”, a Japanese film, for the long. He used “Rooster” for his exhibition program, skating in pajamas. Off ice, he likes to listen to Japanese pop. Although he doesn’t play any instruments, Oda noted that his brother is a musician.

Oda is in public high school in Japan. “I have three more years to go,” he said. “I like to study English and plan to study languages at the university. I want to be a school teacher.”

When he’s not studying or skating, Oda enjoys visiting friends and going to the movies. “I like Lord of the Rings and love stories,” he said. He also plays a lot of sports including baseball, soccer, volleyball and ping pong, but just for fun. He doesn’t collect anything but saves the gifts he receives from fans in his room. Oda likes traveling. “I’ve been to the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany but I want to see more in Europe,” he said. “I liked Canada and Los Angeles too. I liked the sun and the pool.”

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