Senior Jaden Lee Has Defined Working Hard Through Her Seven Year Ice Skating Career


Reilly Smith

Jaden Lee competed in two regional figure skating competitions as a part of the Pacific Northwest Region; in 2016 she placed fourth and in 2017 she placed third.

Emily Hawkins, Editor

She has been waking up at 4:00 a.m. on a normal school day for the past five years, driving 30 minutes to Mountain View Ice Arena, and lacing up her ice skates.

For most people, ice skating consists of clenching onto the side railing while trying to keep their balance.

Senior Jaden Lee, on the other hand, started skating at the age of nine when she was walking around Lloyd Center with her mom. “I saw a bunch of people skating on the ice and I thought it looked really fun, so I talked to my mom about maybe enrolling me in group lessons,” Lee said.

She was a freestyle skater for six years, which has more “jumps and spins,” until she switched to ice dancing about a year ago. “[Ice dancing] also has spins in it, but it’s more focused on my timing and precision than jumps,” Lee said.

Lee is at the silver level in ice dance and skates for the Portland Ice Skating Club. “I think the ice dancing fit me better because I’m good at listening to music, so finding the beats was easy for me,” Lee said. “I feel like I progress faster during ice dance than I did in freestyle.”

Photo courtesy of Jaden Lee.
In November, Lee passed three bronze ice dance pattern tests.

She is seven tests away from reaching the highest level of ice dancing, which is gold.

Recently, Lee was awarded the Bronze level Graduating Seniors award from the United States Figure Skating Association. This award recognizes student athletes who have shown dedication to both academics and skating throughout high school, and it is being awarded to over 800 student-athletes across the country this year.

She also competed in two regional figure skating competitions as a part of the Pacific Northwest Region; in 2016 she placed fourth and in 2017 she placed third. She also participated in the National Solo Ice Dance series in 2018, where she finished in the top ten out of the entire Pacific Northwest Region.

Photo courtesy of Jaden Lee.
She performed at the Sun Valley Ice Skating Competition in 2018, placing 6th overall.

At the Sun Valley Ice Skating Competition, she placed first in 2015 and 2017.

“I like having the feeling of getting your scores back and comparing them to how you did last competition and seeing what you improved on [and] what you need to improve on,” Lee said. “I like the feeling of when you stand on the podium with the medal around your neck, that’s a really rewarding feeling.”

Competition season for 2019 has not yet begun, but she is preparing for her first competition of the season right now, which is the Ice Fest in Seattle, Washington in about a month.

Lee is motivated by competition and wanting to get the best scores. Competition season runs from May to October and she has been competing for six years. “Hearing your coach say you got it right,” is also motivating and helps her persevere, she said.

One of the biggest things Lee has learned from skating is to not give up.

“Once you get it right, [you realize] the only thing that was holding me back was myself,” Lee said. “Everything was working out in my favor, you have the right technique, you have everything else, but it’s just teaching yourself not to accept the first fall and [to] just keep [being] willing to fall [and] learning how to fall over and over again without getting scared of not doing it right.”

When Lee is skating she feels happy and in her element. “It just feels so much more natural to be on the ice than it does on the ground,” Lee said. “I can run with my skates on faster than I can without my skates on.”

She also grew up with a lot of the girls at her rink and has made many friends throughout her time as an ice skater.

Photo courtesy of Jaden Lee.
She volunteered with friends at the SpringFest Competition at Mountain View Ice Arena two weeks ago.

Lee usually skates five to six times a week and either has a lesson or skates by herself. On late start days, she wakes up at 5:45 a.m. to skate. She started skating at the Lloyd Center Ice Rink, but it was renovated and made smaller, and was no longer conducive to practicing and preparing for competitions.

Because she practices in the morning, she is able to come home right after school and start working on her homework. “I think just having the certain schedule that I have to do my homework right after I get home from school helps me because then I don’t get distracted,” Lee said.

She attributes her success to the support from her mom and her first coach.

“[My mom] let me have the privilege of going skating and she was the one that woke me up and she was willing to go early for practices when I couldn’t drive,” Lee said. “She drove me to the rink and for competitions we have dresses, and she would stay up really late at night stoning the dresses with gems.”

She also said that if she needs help on something her mom will record it on her phone and show her what she thinks she needs to improve on from “an outsider’s perspective.”

Photo courtesy of Jaden Lee.
At the Grand Prix Final on the UBC campus, Lee met Alina Zagitova, the 2018 Olympic champion.

Her first coach from Lloyd Center Ice Rink First, Dody Teachman, has been an influential part of getting Lee to where she is now. “She taught me everything I know,” Lee said. “[She taught me] all my foundation, and she took me to competitions and she calmed me down when I was nervous and upset… She would be my main motivator on the ice and she would encourage me and she wouldn’t sugarcoat things either. I think that helped in the end, even if it was hard to take on when I was younger.”

The hardest part about skating for Lee is the mental blocks that can happen. When you’re attempting at a new element, you have to force yourself to first learn the technique and then try it because you know oftentimes you’re going to fall and that worries a lot of people,” Lee said. “It did worry me when I did jumps because I was afraid that if I did something wrong, I was going to fall and hurt myself, so just overcoming that and realizing that you can do it, it’s just your mind that is the first obstacle, that’s the hardest.”

When she was younger, she used to get nervous before competitions, but as she got older she said she learned how to manage her nerves and mostly feels “excitement and adrenaline” before going out on the ice now.

Next year, she will be going to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. She will declare her major after her freshman year there, but will be taking general science classes to start out with. She is interested in pursuing a career as a radiologist or a dentist.

Photo courtesy of Jaden Lee.
Lee met two-time national champion, Nathan Chen, at a competition in Sun Valley, Idaho.

She will have access to three rinks on campus within walking distance from her dorm and plans on joining club skating to continue competing.

“An important lesson I learned from skating is something my coach said to me four years ago, which was ‘hard work beats talent’ because you see a lot of people naturally get the hang of doing something, but they can burn out or lose interest,” Lee said. “You’re your main self motivator and I think that’s the best kind of motivation because then you’re not relying on anybody but yourself.”