Cooper Cornwell and Jasmine Robertson, novice ice dancers who train in Novi, maintain a rigorous practice schedule to be able to compete at an elite level.

Cooper Cornwell and Jasmine Robertson, novice ice dancers who train in Novi, maintain a rigorous practice schedule to be able to compete at an elite level.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Novi novice ice dance team wins national championship

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published December 9, 2023


NOVI — Two teenagers from Novi are taking the world of competitive figure skating by storm as they chase after their dream of Olympic gold.

After being paired together for only six months, Cooper Cornwell, 15, and his partner, Jasmine Robertson, 14, have won every competition that they have competed in this year and are the 2023-24 U.S. national novice ice dance champions. The team won the title after winning the national novice competition Nov. 14-15 in Minneapolis.

“It’s incredible, really, with what (they) pulled off with getting together late in the season and then going up against teams that have been together for three or four years,” said Cornwell’s mother, Lisa Waishes-Cornwell.

The two have devoted themselves entirely to perfecting their craft from a young age. Robertson, who moved to Novi from Nashville, fell in love with the sport at the age of 4 while living in Idaho.

“She’s the type of kid where you’ve gotta constantly be having her do something,” said Heather Norton, Robertson’s mom. “So, I decided to put her in skating, and she just loved it. I offered. I’m like, ‘Do you want to do skiing, do you want to play hockey, or do you want to be on the ice?’ and she’s like, ‘I want to dance on the ice.’ And I said, ‘OK.’”

Cornwell fell in love with the sport at age 8 after attending a friend’s birthday party in his hometown of Los Angeles. He said he knew instantly that he had found his “passion” and told his parents.

“When I was about 8, Mom took me to a birthday skating party at the Toyota Center in Los Angeles, where the Kings (practice), and I really enjoyed myself,” Cornwell said. “I had been doing lots of other sports at the time and didn’t really like any of them, like lacrosse, baseball, soccer, basketball, and none of them were really my thing, and then I went ice skating and it was. I loved it.”

He said he started taking “learn to skate” classes immediately after talking to his parents about his desire to be a skater. He excelled quickly in the classes and said a coach asked him if he was interested in doing ice dancing. He quickly fell in love with it.

“I love performing. I like partnering, more dance. Not that freestyle is not impressive. Also, I’m much too tall for freestyle,” said Cornwell, who towers above the ice at 6 feet, 3 inches tall.

Robertson said she used to do both freestyle and ice dance but has chosen to strictly pursue ice dance.

“I always really had a passion for dancing and the expression part of figure skating, and I also really enjoyed skating with a partner and having someone there, and so I just made the decision to skate ice dance,” Robertson said. “I love the performance aspect of it.”

Cornwell and Robertson met in 2021 during an ice dance skater development camp. The two had been selected individually to attend, as they had both placed in the top nine in the country that year. Both of them had other partners at the time but became fast friends. The two kept in touch and then independently decided to move to Novi, where some of the best coaches in the world teach.

Then at the start of the skating season last May, the two found themselves without partners and decided to join forces. They had only four weeks to put together their routines before their first competition, but they managed to skate away with gold medals.

“They’ve only been together for about six months, but to see them, you think they’ve been together for years,” Waishes-Cornwell said.

Cornwell said that they have a good energy together and that he is the more “chill” of the two.

“We balance each other out, and it works really well, I think,” said Cornwell.

Robertson agreed, saying she likes how well they mesh together. She credited this to the fact that they were friends before they became partners and said that helps to give them the edge on the ice.

Norton agreed with Cornwell’s description of his and Robertson’s relationship on the ice. She said her daughter gets hyper focused on the job of the sport, while Cornwell’s mindset is, “We’re going to do this and it’s going to be good,” and agreed that they balance each other out.

In order to achieve success, the teens maintain a rigorous practice schedule and follow specific diets. The two practice for approximately eight hours a day, often starting at 7:45 a.m. and not ending until 5 p.m. Practice includes on-ice training and off-ice instruction in various forms of dance and lifts, and workouts at local gyms. Their schedule is so intense that both of them participate in virtual school programs.

After practice, Cornwell spends his weekday evenings working to complete his high school education through Novi High School’s virtual program. He said he spends about three to four hours each night working on his schoolwork. In order to have less stress during the skating season, Cornwell takes classes year-round. Both Cornwell and his mom praised the school district for helping him to succeed academically while working to achieve his ice dance dreams.

Waishes-Cornwell said that Novi High School counselor Rebecca Chinn has really “jumped through hoops” to ensure that Cornwell can complete his high school education while competing in ice dance, and the virtual program still offers him the opportunity to attend school functions such as football games, homecoming and prom.

Tammy Raffle, Novi Virtual success coach, said that the Novi Virtual program serves a population of students who are unable to attend traditional in-person classes. She said Novi High School virtual students are able to take a variety of electives, including AP courses, in addition to the core courses, and they are provided with live daily instruction on Zoom by Novi teachers.

“Cooper is a perfect example of how we are able to provide options for families who still want a Novi education but need flexibility due to extenuating factors like elite athletic training, overseas travel, illness and many other variables,” said Raffle.

However, it’s not just the skaters who have to sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams, but their parents and families as well. Waishes-Cornwell and Norton estimate that they spend approximately $100,000 a year on skating-related expenses, including multiple different types of coaches, choreographers, travel expenses, costumes, skates, weekly massages, etc. However, along with the pocketbook, it also puts a strain on family unity. Cornwell’s parents purchased a condo in Novi in order for him to be trained at the Novi Ice Arena by world-renowned coach Igor Shpilband. His sister remains in LA, and his parents rotate between the two households every six weeks, sacrificing time with each other, as when one parent is here, the other parent is in LA.

Norton made a similar sacrifice so that Robertson can train in Novi. Norton only goes home to see her husband in Nashville once a month.

According to Robertson, the willpower and determination and dedication to her sport came naturally to her. However, Cornwell said that it is difficult sometimes. He said it is challenging to balance schoolwork with skating and a social life, and he often misses his family and friends. Still, both of them say that the sacrifices are worth it to achieve their dream.

“It’s OK. It will be worth the gold medal,” Robertson said.

The couple aspires to compete together in the Olympics one day, but said that is still several years off, as they are only competing at the novice level right now. They will compete in Columbus, Ohio, Jan. 22-26 against other couples who placed in the top five at the national event last month. They hope to find success in that event and be invited to compete in an international competition in Italy come February.