Mother of star Canadian figure skater dies
A few hours after learning of her mother’s sudden death,
Canadian figure skating star Joannie Rochette was back on the
Dressed in black tights and a black Canadian team hoodie,
Rochette appeared in the runway as the rest of the skaters in her
practice session took the ice Sunday afternoon. She wiped her eyes
and took a deep breath before stepping on the ice, then gave a
little wave to her father, the only spectator who was allowed in
the building – cleared about 45 minutes earlier for the security
sweep before the original dance.
Therese Rochette, 55, had a massive heart attack after arriving
in Vancouver on Saturday, said David Baden, Rochette’s agent. She
was taken to a Vancouver hospital, where she was pronounced dead
early Sunday, Skate Canada said.
“She’s so close to her mother, I think she doesn’t even
entertain not skating,” Baden said. “She’s a tough fighter. It’s
got to be hard to switch gears and say no to (the Olympics). This
is what she has been training for all these years. She’ll be trying
to fulfill the goal they had together.”
Rochette will not talk until after she finishes competing, Skate
Canada president Benoit Lavoie said. The women’s event begins
Tuesday with the short program.
“She’s going to get through this,” Canadian teammate Cynthia
Phaneuf said. “She is just so strong. By being here and being able
to compete after that happened, I’m just very impressed. I think
she’s doing the right thing. She won’t get any stronger in her
Rochette was blinking hard her first few laps around the ice,
but then seemed to settle into the comfort of her practice routine.
She showed no lapses in concentration, jumped well and did a light
run-through of her tango short program. She was applauded by the
few people in the rink after her program and again when she left
“It’s a tragedy. I’m sort of in shock by it,” said Brian
Orser, who got to know Rochette’s parents when he was touring with
her on “Stars on Ice” in Canada. “I’m proud of her that she is
continuing to compete because she’s a great competitor and she’s in
great shape. And she’s skating for the right reasons.”
Joannie Rochette has been in Vancouver since the opening
ceremony, and her parents arrived Saturday from their home in
Montreal. Baden said Therese and Normand Rochette visited Canada
House and then went back to the apartment where they’re staying.
Normand Rochette later found his wife passed out and, when he was
unable to revive her, took her to Vancouver General.
Normand Rochette went to the Olympic village early Sunday to
tell his daughter of her mother’s death. He repeatedly wiped his
eyes as he sat in the stands and watched his daughter’s
Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s director of high performance, said
the Canadian team was told about Rochette’s mother’s death before
the news was announced publicly.
“We’ll do our best to manage it, but our first thoughts are
with Jo and her family,” Slipchuk said. “We’ll go step by
Rochette plans to continue staying in the Olympic village, but
she’ll be given her own room. She had been rooming with Canadian
ice dancer Tessa Virtue. Skate Canada is also being careful not to
crowd Rochette, letting her work through her emotions with her
father and Manon Perron, her coach since she was a child.
Perron appeared to be working hard to keep things light during
Rochette’s practice, smiling and laughing during their frequent
chats at the boards.
“They went through a lot together, and that’s what’s made it so
strong for them in their relationship,” Lavoie said. “I could see
Manon was the right person to be with her.”
If Rochette needs other people to lean on, she can count on the
support of her fellow skaters – from Canada and beyond. The news
spread quickly during practices at the Pacific Coliseum, and
Rochette’s competitors were united in sympathy for her.
World champion Kim Yu-na, who trains with Orser in Toronto, said
she “really felt sorry” for Rochette.
“I can’t even imagine what she’s going through,” Frank
Carroll, who coaches Mirai Nagasu and men’s gold medalist Evan
Lysacek, said, shaking his head. “It takes such strength to get
out there and control your emotions just under normal
circumstances. … It’s horrible. Horrible.”
Added U.S. champion Rachael Flatt: “That’s really hard. I can’t
imagine losing your mother, let alone at the Olympics.”
Jeff Buttle, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist and a good friend
of Rochette’s said he was “shocked and saddened” when he learned
“Joannie is a strong person, and I am there to help and support
her in any way possible,” Buttle said in a statement. “The best
thing we can do for her is to respect her privacy at this
As the reigning world silver medalist, Rochette is Canada’s best
chance to win an Olympic medal since Liz Manley won the silver in
1988, the last time the games were in Canada.
“A medal would mean so much to me,” the six-time Canadian
champion said earlier in the games. “But I’m trying not to think
too much because I want to be happy in my performance and happy in
my career. I don’t want to define my life by what happened
AP Sports Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.