It is difficult to fathom the weight on Joannie Rochette’s shoulders as she prepared to compete in figure skating at the 2010 Winter Olympics just two days after her mother Therese died of a sudden heart attack in Vancouver.
With her entire nation and the world watching, the 24-year-old Montreal native has gone about her Olympic dream, no doubt in loving tribute to her mother, and has said she will not do interviews until she’s done competing. But Skate Canada Chief Executive William Thompson said, “It is providing her with stability in a very uncertain time of her life. The Olympic Games has always been her dream and her mum always supported that dream.”
Dan Jansen recalled on NBC’s coverage that he learned of his sister’s passing the day he was set to compete in speedskating. Emphasizing that everyone grieves in their own way, Jansen remembered falling on the ice twice in his races that day, but hoped that Joannie Rochette would have a better experience as she prepared to compete in figure skating just two days after her mother’s sudden death.
Jansen said he sent Joannie an e-mail to explain what he’d been through and gave her some words of encouragement to help her get through, and he advised her to skate with her mother in her heart.
Joannie’s father, Normand, sat emotionally in the crowd as his daughter warmed up. she teared up as the crowd cheered when her name was announced.
Joannie turned in a riveting and brave performance that earned her a personal best score from the judges, but Tuesday night wasn’t about numbers or judges.
She sobbed in her coach’s arms as she left the ice and her father stood and cheered along with the rest of the packed arena.
In the face of tragedy came great triumph, and that kind of emotion and perseverance is what the Olympic Games are all about.
Well done, Joannie.