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At first, Ohno's commitment at Lake Placid was low until his teammates nicknamed him "Chunky", which motivated him to train harder. Ohno then relocated to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center to begin training with the senior level skaters, despite being only fourteen years old.
However, Ohno would struggle at the 1997 World Championships in Nagano, Japan, finishing 19th overall.
Because of his losses at the World Championships and his failure to qualify for the Olympic team, Ohno recommitted himself to the sport and returned to junior-level skating at Lake Placid, rather than at Colorado Springs. In the 2000–2001 season, Ohno won his first World Cup overall title, regained his National title, and finished second overall in the World Championships, losing to Chinese skater Li Jiajun. Ohno and fellow skater Rusty Smith had already earned slots on the six-man team due to points earned from earlier races.After this disappointing defeat at his first appearance at a world championships, Ohno returned home to Seattle.He did not train from April to August 1997, so he gained weight and was ill-prepared for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Championships, Ohno was unable to defend his title and finished third overall.He has had little contact with his biological mother and as of 2002 had expressed no interest in knowing her or his older half-brother.Ohno's father, a hair stylist and owner of the salon Yuki's Diffusion, often worked twelve-hour shifts, and with no family in the United States, found it hard to balance career and family.