The air is cold as Canadian-born Michelle Kelley, 53, glides across the rink. Her metal blades cut through the top layer of ice scarring and scraping as she gains speed. Seconds pass and friction slows her— the blades bite the ice and she stops. Kelley looks up and smiles to greet her friends who she met only recently when she began learning how to figure skate at the age of fifty. A contrast to the humid climate outside, Palm Beach Ice Works in West Palm Beach, Fla. is where Kelley spends her weekends learning to figure skate and getting to know the local skating community.
Kelley only began figure skating at the age of fifty.
“Three years ago I couldn’t even brake properly.” Kelley said. Now she plans to skate for as long as she can.
Even after she fell and hurt her knee cap she continued pursuing her goals of learning to figure skate. Traveling to see other skaters perform across the globe is something Kelley wants to do once the pandemic is over and is something that keeps her motivated.
“I know I’m not gonna go to the Olympics.” Kelley said. “I just keep pushing anyway, it keeps you moving, it keeps you active, and I love it. And I’ve made a lot of good friends, so why not?”
The ice rink is the only place Kelley goes outside of her home to socialize during the pandemic. The pandemic has also prevented her from visiting her family in Quebec City, Canada. Ice skating reminds her of home, where people grew up knowing how to skate among various winter sports.
“Growing up I hated the cold.” Kelley said. “I always joked about moving to Florida. But somehow I made it happen.” In 1994, Kelley moved to Florida and worked at the Canada area of Disney’s Epcot in Orlando, Fla.
Now Kelley reminisces on her first twenty-seven years in Canada. “Looking back, there’s a lot of things I wish I had started twenty, thirty years ago.”
Most of the other skaters at Palm Beach Ice Works are younger and many are aiming for recognition as prestigious as the Olympics. Kelley, however, continues to take her time to do the very best she can on each test.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 Kelley passed her eighth pattern dance, the Willow Waltz. After the next dance test, the Ten-Fox, she will have completed her bronze level and move on to aim for her silver level.“There’s a point when you get older when you don’t care what other people think.” Kelley said. “I’m doing this for me, not for anybody else.”