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.At the 1999 World Junior Championships, Ohno won first overall, placing first in the 1000 m and 1500 m, and winning silver in the 500 m. In order for Davis to qualify, he had to place first in the final race—the 1000 m—by overcoming stronger skaters Ohno, Smith, and Ron Biondo.However, Ohno would struggle at the 1997 World Championships in Nagano, Japan, finishing 19th overall.After this disappointing defeat at his first appearance at a world championships, Ohno returned home to Seattle.At 13 years of age, Ohno was the youngest skater admitted to the center. At the age of 14, he became the youngest person to win the title.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 14 years old.
His father wanted to encourage Ohno to develop his skills and, although Ohno was underage, he got him admitted to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in 1996 to train full-time for short track. Ohno adjusted his training and made a comeback winning the 1997 U. Senior Championships overall title, taking a gold medal in the 1500 m, a silver in the 300 m, and came in fourth in the 500 m races.
His father has stated that it was a struggle balancing his son's desire for independence while helping him reach his potential as a young athlete.
When he was 12 years old, Ohno became interested in short track speed skating after seeing the sport during the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer.
When Ohno was 12, he won the Washington state championship in the breaststroke but preferred inline speed skating over swimming.
He has stated that by the time he turned 13 years of age he attended parties with older teenagers if he did not have competitions on the weekends.