JoJo Hong (8) skates her way to Junior Worlds

Sam Keimweiss, Staff Writer

This past weekend, Jocelyn Hong (8) headed out to Croatia for the biggest moment of her life so far, she said. After training for six years and competing both nationally and internationally, Hong attended the Junior World Figure Skating Championships in Croatia.

“I had a lot of fun in Croatia and it was a really great week,” Hong said. “I thought that the city was really great, and I also met a lot of new friends whom I was also competing against.”

For her World Championships short program, Hong chose New Moon by Alexandre Desplat, a piece she had loved since she first heard it at the beginning of the season, she said. “At the beginning of my program I pretend I am a painter, and the music is just piano,” she said.

Unfortunately, Hong did not see the result she wanted at the World Championships, placing 32nd and failing to qualify for the second round, the free skate, she said. Despite this, she remained in good spirits, happy about the event and excited for the future, she said.

Hong started skating when she was six, she said. Originally, she was just a casual skater, but thanks to an amazing tutor in Xaiou Hu she quickly found a love for the sport and soon started competing in regional tournaments around Beijing, she said.

“When I started taking it seriously, I started competing since I was improving so fast,” Hong said.

In sixth grade, Hong moved to the United States and began attending the school and competing in the United States. By seventh grade, she began competing at the junior level, and in August, she was old enough to compete internationally, attending her first international competition at the Junior Grand Prix in Austria.

Hong skates for New Zealand internationally, she said. The country where she was born, New Zealand provides a significantly lower level of competitiveness than China and the United States, which helps her focus on the larger international tournaments instead of nationals, she said.

Hong was the first person from New Zealand to make the junior worlds in five years, her mother Jihong Chen said.

    Hong has fallen in love with the sport because of the way it combines art and athleticism, she said. “You not only have to be good at jumping and techniques, but you also have to skate to your program and really work hard on making your program perfect,” she said.

As her love of the sport has grown, her devotion to it has grown as well, former coach Jimmy Ma said. “She is very much invested in her craft,” he said.

Ma coached Hong from the end 2016 to the middle of 2017, he said, before he left her to let her go on to a more experienced coach. “It was very much like a big brother, younger sister type deal,” Ma said of his relationship with Hong. “I left her in a good place.”

Hong’s current coach and choreographer, Nikolai Morozov, has been with her since then. Morozov coached former professional figure skater Shizuka Arakawa to a gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics and led former professional figure skater Miki Ando to two world titles, in 2007 and 2011.

“I think I’ve improved a lot since he started coaching me, jumping wise, skating skills and everything in general,” Hong said. “I think he’s a really great coach to work with.”

Under Morozov, Hong has really taken her skating to the next level, she said. She placed top ten in two events in the winter, Skate Celje in Slovenia in late November and the January Mentor Torun Cup in Poland.

In early February, Hong won her first international event, the International Games in Reykjavik, Iceland. “I was really surprised and happy because this year was my first competing internationally, since I was too young before. I was really excited that I could win this competition,” Hong said.

As important as the win was, what it meant was that Hong had scored enough points to qualify for the World Championships. “It was a challenge for me this year because for my short program, I needed to go to many competitions until I got enough points,” she said.

Even with all this success, Hong remains remarkably humble about her accomplishments, her advisor Kenneth Carpenter said. “She really doesn’t toot her own horn. She is very, very modest,” he said.

With four international tournaments and numerous regional affairs this year, Hong has had to work carefully to balance school work and her budding skating career. Hong has been skating long enough and at a high enough level that Ma actually suggested she be homeschooled and focus her time on skating instead, he said.

“She wanted to have the middle school experience,” Ma said. “Education still means a lot to her and social life is important as well.”

School means a lot to Hong, and she believes that her experiences at school will help her as she prepares for the future, Chen said.

Hong has worked closely with the administration, her teachers, and her advisors to make sure that she does not fall behind on work while she is on her trips, Carpenter said. “Frankly, I admire her greatly, because she has a great work ethic that makes her succeed as a student and a skater,” he said.

Hong’s friends also help with her work, she said. “At school, my friends have been really supportive of me, and while I was gone, they helped me a lot by sending me school work and class notes,” Hong said. “They encouraged me and supported me when I was really nervous or just really scared before a competition.”

Hong’s devotion to her craft really makes her stand out, Yui Hasagewa (8) said. “Jojo works very hard to maintain her skating career,” she said.

Even when she is at home, Hong devotes most of her time to figure skating. She skates for one hour every morning before school, 1.5 hours every afternoon, and three to four hours every weekend. Although all of this constant work may seem like a lot, to Hong it is not a problem, as she loves every minute on the ice, she said.

As the annual eighth grade Dorr trip approached, Hong became worried that taking eight days out of her schedule would kill her hopes at making the World Championships. Before Dorr, Hong had never taken eight days off of skating before; most of her vacations or rests didn’t exceed three days.

“In skating, it’s really hard to maintain your technique after not skating for such a long time,” she said.

It ended up being okay, however, as Hong quickly recovered after the hiatus and went on to achieve her goal. Now, it is on to the next step in her career: the senior level at age 16 and the Olympics in 2022, which she is determined to go to, Chen said.

“I hope to see her on TV someday soon,” Carpenter said.

Thanks to Hong’s dedication, focus, and love of the sport, the Olympics are not a dream; they are an attainable goal.