BACK IN TIME…
Joannie Rochette, the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist, the 2009 World silver medalist, the 2008 and 2009 Four Continents silver medalist, the 2004 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist, and a six-time (2005–10) Canadian national champion and THE YOUNG, STRONG AND BRAVE GIRL with no Mother.
When Joannie Rochette skated out to perform her short program in Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Olympics, she seemed so alone.
It was just two days since news of her mother’s death had woken her from early morning slumber at the Olympic Village, and it followed 48 hours of media speculation about what must have been going on around her as a world audience waited for this moment.
The 28-year-old Canadian figure skater’s mother died of a heart attack just before the Vancouver Games — Theresa Rochette’s home Olympics.
Two days before Rochette’s short-program, her father returned to their lodging to find his wife passed out. He took her to Vancouver General Hospital, where she died of a massive heart attack. Normand Rochette had to break the news to his daughter at the Olympic village.
Within a very short time after hearing the news, Rochette told the press that she would still skate. She was given private practice time with her father and coach, which she took only hours after hearing the tragic news.
Though many wondered if she would compete at all, Rochette skated her personal best in the short program two days later and went into the long program in third place. Upon receiving a standing ovation, she melted into tears.
In an interview, Jaonnie in tears, said ‘That was the chance of a lifetime. Any athlete wants to make it to the Olympics, but to make it in your own country … to make it and then not be able to skate in my own country was not what my mom would have wanted for me. I knew I was strong. I did not know I was that strong, to have one of my parents die a few days before; you can never be prepared for that.’
Perhaps. But her courage in the midst of such grief was inspirational — to other Olympians, to fans. To everyone, really. She took the ice for practice just hours after her mother’s death. Four days later, she mesmerized the crowd and many of her peers with a stunning free skate that earned her bronze. Skating for her mom, Joannie though took home the bronze medal. But to the spectators, she won gold.
A few days later, Canadian teammates chose her to carry the flag at the closing ceremony. ‘In Vancouver, I learned no matter how prepared you are for a competition — you plan well in advance for the Olympics, of course, on and off ice — you need to be flexible with that plan and can never know what can happen,’ she said. ‘Winners are those who can go with it.’
With the support of her ‘strong team’ — her father and boyfriend, her coach and sports psychologist — she made it.
‘I knew I might be alone on the ice, but without them I would not ever be able to skate,’ Rochette said. “That was the moment I was training for my whole life. The Olympics come once every four years. I was 24 and at my peak, and it was do it then or do it never. ‘There was no option during the games to go back home for me.’
FEBRUARY 21, 2010
06:00 AM: Joannie Rochette informed of her mother’s death.
06:30 AM: Joannie accompanied by family and the support team to the hospital.
06:45 am: Initial statement drafted.
08:30 am: Statement revised to reflect Joannie’s decision to skate.
10:00 AM: Statement made to press at daily briefing session.
10:40 am: Alert to control media at practice session.
02:00 PM: Conclusion of Joannie first practice session.
02:15 PM: Joannie takes to the ice for practice, again.