But I digress. Why am I mentioning Rochette? Because this only child lost her mother suddenly to a heart attack two days before this competition was held:
There is no good time for the grief Joannie Rochette is feeling as she copes with the sudden death of her mother Therese.
There is only bad and worse and this is surely the latter.
It is an unthinkable burden for a 24-year-old, no doubt already feeling the expectations of medal-hungry Canadians at a home Games that seems to be slipping away, already skating under the weight of a silver medal from the 2009 world championships. But she’s still here.
She took the horrible news delivered by her father Normand and longtime coach Manon Perron at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, that her 55-year-old mother and biggest fan had died of a heart attack, and she steeled herself.
I can certainly relate to there being no good time to lose one's mother, but for it to be so unexpected, to be an only child, to have lost one's biggest fan, and to have it happen right before a world wide event for which one has worked and trained, is just staggering, she carried on:
“She demonstrated a lot of control,” said Benoit Lavoie, Skate Canada president. “Right after she remained composed. You had a feeling she was going back to her Olympic mode to cope.”
It was no surprise to those who know her well that Rochette will compete Tuesday, nor that she practised her short program Sunday and did it without breaking down. Arriving last in her group, and after quickly wiping away tears, she took the ice, waved to her father and five family friends in the seats, and with chin high and a smile pasted on her face she got through what had to be an incredibly difficult skate.
Normand, wearing a red Canada Olympic team coat, dabbed at his eyes with a tissue as he watched his daughter’s every move.
“Joannie is a very courageous person. Just to be there this morning (for) the practice I was very impressed,” said her Canadian teammate Cynthia Phaneuf. “She’s going to get through this. She’s just so strong. I think she is doing the right thing. She is not going to get any better just staying in her room. She is maybe a person to look up to, yeah?”
I'll say. She is exactly the kind of person to whom many can look up, including me:
“I know that she’ll find the strength and the courage from her friends, her close friends, from her team, from her coach Manon, from the millions of fans who will be sending their thoughts and their love,” said Brian Orser, a former Olympic skater and now coach of Korea’s Yu-Na Kim, touted as the gold-medal favourite here.
“I’m proud of her that she’s continuing to compete because she’s a great competitor. She’s in great shape and she’ll be skating for the right reasons.”
“Manon and Joannie have a really tight bond and they have each other through this because Manon was really close to Joannie’s mother as well. Together they will get through this and as a coach I think you have to allow her to grieve when she needs to. And I think it has to take its natural course.”
Skate Canada is taking their cues from Rochette from here forward. She had been rooming with ice dancer Tessa Virtue (who won the Gold Medal in Ice Dancing with her partner, Scott Muir, Monday night) in the athletes’ village and will now be afforded her own room.
Lavoie said there have been generous corporate offers of financial assistance with expenses for the Rochette family. There have been kind words of support from the Vancouver organizing committee, Hockey Canada and other sport organizations and athletes.
“That is absolutely devastating for her. I wish nobody else to be in the same situation that right now has happened to Joannie. That she has decided to perform is a very strong way,” Russian silver medallist (sic) Evgeni Plushenko said through an interpreter Sunday morning. “Not everybody can do that. You have to be very strong to do that. Probably she will perform in memory of her mother.”
Unfortunately, video footage is protected by the IOC, but you can see a recap from NBC here (I will keep checking, and insert a video, if it becomes available). Rochette is now in Third Place after the Short Program, a well deserved score based on her performance alone. That she was able to accomplish such a feat after the devastating loss she suffered is amazing. There was not a dry eye in my house, and I bet not in the entire arena. Rochette was amazing, especially under the circumstances. I look forward to what the Free Skate on Thursday will bring.
In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to Joannie and her father, with my sincerest condolences.