Jason Cohn glides out onto the ice in one fluid movement. With the wind fanning against his face, he gains enough momentum on his skates to fly into the air.
The crowd swells in an uproar, but to Cohn everything is silent. In a dizzying blur, he lands his spin just as the crowd’s cheers flood his ears.
“It’s kind of an ethereal experience,” he said. “Half the time, you’re just lost in your own thoughts, you’re taking everything one thing at a time. At some point, there’s just an out of body experience.”
Cohn, a supply chain management sophomore, has been figure skating almost every weekday since the age of five.
He picked up an interest in the sport while watching his mother and brother skate. He said skating offers a unique experience each time he hits the ice, but it still allows him to maintain a comfortable routine.
“It’s never the same any one day, but it’s also the same,” he said. “Everyday you’re always trying to get better, you’re always trying to do something new, but at the same time you’re still struggling with the things that you struggled with from day one.”
For Cohn, figure skating is a tool for self-improvement.
“One thing that’s always been a part of me is that drive to always continue to get better. (Figure skating) kind of became a way that I could really mold myself into the person I wanted to be. I could build that determination (and) self-discipline — the mindset that you need to be able to compete in all that.”
There are five levels — juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior — through which figure skaters can qualify to compete in regional, sectional and national competitions.
To be eligible to compete at a certain rank, a skater has to test through that level. Cohn stopped competing at the novice level, but has tested through the senior level in four tracks of figure skating — moves in the field, pattern dance, free dance and freestyle.
One of the proudest moments in his competitive figure skating career occurred when Cohn had just recovered from contracting the H1N1 virus. Weak from fighting the flu, Cohn attempted a two-and-a-half-minute program in a delirious state.
“I remember in one of my spins — it’s a sit spin — I catch the blade under my leg and I didn’t notice but I sliced my hand open,” he said. “So, I finish my program and I still don’t know this until I go to give my coach a high-five and she’s like ‘Your hand’s bleeding!’”
It was the first time he’d won a regional competition, and he said each subsequent competitive experience was just as exhilarating and rewarding.
“The people I was competing against and with definitely (made it) meaningful,” Cohn said. “Going out on the ice and doing what you enjoy in front of people, it’s nerve-wracking, sure, but it’s also a lot of fun. Even if you don’t do well, you’re still going to enjoy it.”
Because of figure skating, Cohn is able to solve ordinary problems through inventive ways.
“It’s almost completely a creative sport,” he said. “Even when you do the things that you have to do, you have to find the right way to do them for yourself that fits the music and the way you skate.”
Cohn ended his competitive figure skating streak after the 2013-2014 season, just before he came to UTD. He said his routine practices for competitions took a physical toll on his body, leaving him aching constantly. Once he stopped, he said his body finally felt intact.
“When I stopped competing, I was like, ‘Wow, I actually feel almost a 100 percent.’ This is so weird. It (didn’t) feel natural,” he said. “It took a few months into college to actually get used to that. Skating makes you so aware of your body that when you’re not having something to be aware about, it feels like something’s missing.”
Although he hasn’t competed since starting at UTD, Cohn still tries to put in time on the ice. He’s able to apply skills he’s learned through skating to his supply chain curriculum.
“Skating taught me how to be efficient with time,” he said. “You’re always having to do self-analysis to kind of see what you’re doing and whether it’s good or not. It’s that efficiency mindset and the creative ways to achieve those.”
Although he’s an accredited figure skating coach, Cohn currently does not have students because his schedule doesn’t allow it. But he practices at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter rink in Plano once a month to revisit his longtime passion.
“It’s like that old friend you haven’t seen in like a year and you see them again and nothing has changed in that period of time,” he said.