An Icy Escape from the Cold: Junior Jocelyn Belena finds Solace in Ice-Skating During the Pandemic


Jocelyn skates at Central Park’s Wollman Rink over the winter and at Chelsea Piers over the spring and summer

Elizabeth Alton

While most students during remote school commute to their desks just in time for first period, junior Joceyln Belena is up far before that. Instead Belena, a passionate ice-skater, wakes up early every morning for a 6 am practice at the rink. For her, every extra minute on the ice is an asset. 

As things are starting to reopen in New York, Joceyln has been grateful to resume her ice-skating regiment. After a hiatus spurred on by the Coronavirus pandemic, Jocelyn was first able to start skating last August. Of course it isn’t exactly the same, her usual Uber ride has now been replaced with a more COVID-friendly bike-ride or walk, and safety precautions are in place, but her hobby still brings her more comfort than ever.

“It’s really been a blessing to have it open during COVID, because it’s really the one normal thing in my life that’s consistent,” Joceyln said. “Now I can skate more than ever because a lot of times we don’t have school or [I don’t have to commute], so I can just go in the morning and skate to get my mind off of anything, practice, and then come to school, and I don’t have to like be rushing around.”

Even as we spoke over Zoom, Joceyln’s passion shone through both in the form of her words and the logoed ice skating shirt she happened to be wearing. 

While Jocelyn loves skating, when it comes down to it, it’s a hobby for her. Despite the effort she puts in working on her own and with coaches on her spins, jumps, and technique, she makes sure to always end her practices working on skills that she enjoys. 

While it’s easy to see graceful ice skaters on TV and picture yourself doing their moves with ease, far more work goes on behind the scenes. Although the physical work required to skate is rigorous, at its core figure skating is a mental sport.  Getting up after taking a hard fall can be one of the hardest parts. 

“A lot of figure skating is mental so you have to be willing to push yourself to try new things and not be afraid to… take some falls and stuff,” Jocelyn said. “That’s obviously applicable to real life because you’re not going to everything perfect the first time, and you have to be willing to accept that you’re going to fail before you get better.”

Belena’s sister Carly has seen this determination translate to other aspects of Jocelyn’s life.

“I think… her overall motivation and dedication towards anything in general has just increased because of [ice skating],” Carly said.

Overall this motivation has paid off for Jocelyn, whether it’s skating a perfect or ‘clean’ program, landing a jump that she’d been working on like her double salchow, or winning a competition. 

The difference between a success or failure isn’t always as clear cut as getting first place. In fact, one of the competitions that Jocelyn is the most proud of is one she didn’t win.

“I was very proud of it because I had just landed my axel and I would have these horrible falls in practice when I was running my program,” Jocelyn said. “I landed both my axels in my program, so I had a very good skate. Even though I didn’t win… personally it was a very good program for me.”

One of Belena’s friends, junior Ava Simon, has seen her push herself especially over COVID. 

“I know it’s harder now because the rinks are lower capacity and it’s hard to get a reservation, but I still see her motivated and she’s always trying to skate whenever she can,” Ava said. “Even when it’s hard to get on the rink and stuff she still tries to push herself and always be the best skater she can.”

In terms of next steps, while Jocelyn doesn’t see a career for herself in figure skating she hopes to continue with it as a collegiate sport in college, whether it’s going to a school with a team or starting her own team.

“Obviously figure skating is not a career for me, because I’m just not at that level… but it’s something I’ve been dedicated to for a really long time, so for me it’s just something I love to do,” Jocelyn said. 

Doing something you enjoy and can pour your time and energy into is what makes life, especially during the pandemic, fulfilling. So like Jocelyn, even if you fall a few times, make sure you get back up and try to land the jump in the end.