Last season was a complete bust for figure skater Nobunari Oda.
Early on, the 25-year-old partially severed a tendon in his knee during practice. He tried to soldier on, but failed to qualify for the Grand Prix final and saw his season end when he aggravated the injury and was forced to sit out the nationals.
But Oda is now on the comeback trail with the goal of qualifying for the 2014 world championships, and ultimately, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
On Aug. 5 at the Kansai University Ice Arena, the graduate school student performed for the first time since he was sidelined.
"It's still physically tough for me," Oda said with his signature smile. "But I had fun because I think the audience enjoyed it."
This season, he was able to start training on ice in February after his knee healed.
"It recovered sooner than I thought," Oda said of his knee, which had recovered enough to land quads by June.
But Oda's comeback won't be easy. Until recently, Oda was part of the "big three," which included Vancouver Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi and Takahiko Kozuka. The trio almost always took Japan's three slots to the world championships.
But Tohoku High School student Yuzuru Hanyu has moved up to the senior ranks and has been producing results--winning a bronze medal at the world championships last year. Oda must now fight for his previous spot.
Oda is the only one among his major domestic rivals to not have a world championship medal. Takahashi has won a gold, Kozuka a silver and Hanyu a bronze.
Oda's true comeback will be when he medals at worlds. He's ready to do just that.
"I want to keep increasing my performance level," he said.
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