Rochette wins national junior figure skating title

No skater has won all three women's singles titles -- novice, junior and senior -- in Canadian figure skating history, but Joannie Rochette is well on her way.

Rochette, from Ile Dupas, Que., added national junior gold Saturday to the novice gold she won a year ago in Calgary. She'll move up to senior now, and she's only 14, so there is plenty of time for her to complete the triple.

"Next year I'd like to be in the top five in senior," she said. "One day I would like to be senior champion and compete in the Olympics."

Rochette is coached by Manon Perron at Sports-etudes la Mouriere. Perron moves to the St-Laurent club later this year, and Rochette will follow her.

"She improves with every competition," Perron said in assessing her skater's development.

Rochette skated the best short program Thursday. She was second in free skating to Courtney Sokal of Calgary. Sokal had been fourth in the short, and she wound up with the silver medal. Marie-Luc Jodoin of Mont St-Hilaire, Que., won bronze.

"My goal was to finish in the top five, so I'm very happy I've reached my goal," said Sokal, who is coached by former Canadian men's senior champion Michael Slipchuk.

Rochette fell at the end of her triple-double jump combination Saturday.

"This was not the best performance of my life, but what I did I did well," she said. "I have a lot to work on for next year."

"She has a lot of talent," said Perron, whose mother had her taking skating lessons at age three. "She's a fighter.

"We'll take it step by step, and we want her to have fun while she improves."

Rochette's favourite skaters are Tara Lipinski, the American who won 1998 Olympic gold, and Irina Slutskaya of Russia, one of the top women in the world today. She has a long way to go to reach such exotic heights, but she'll give it a try.