Road To The Olympic Games

Skater Rochette's mother dies in Vancouver

Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette took to the ice for practice at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on Sunday, just a few hours after learning that her mother, Therese, had died suddenly.

Therese Rochette had arrived in Olympic host city the day before

Joannie Rochette's Winter Olympic hopes have taken a tragic turn.

Therese Rochette, 55, mother of the Canadian figure skater, died early Sunday at Vancouver General Hospital, two days before her daughter is to take the ice in the women's singles competition.

Rochette’s mother had arrived in Vancouver on Saturday with her husband, Normand, according to information from a Skate Canada news conference at the Games on Sunday.

David Baden, the skater's agent, said Therese Rochette suffered a massive heart attack.

Rochette learned of her mother's death from her father, who went to the Olympic Village to tell her.

The six-time Canadian national champion and defending world silver medallist will stay in the competition Tuesday and Thursday, officials said, but she will not speak to the media until her Games are over.

Rochette, 24, took to the ice Sunday afternoon for a practice session, frequently conferring with coach Manon Perron. She was applauded by the few people in the rink after completing a run-through of her short program, a tango.

Unimaginable

Pj Kwong, one of Canada’s leading figure skating analysts and herself a coach, said the news was taking a while to sink in.

"For any young person, and certainly for any young woman here at the Olympic Games when this is supposed to be her moment, this is just incomprehensible," she said.

Kwong, who is working as the official rink announcer for figure skating at the Olympic Games, said Rochette had spoken about her mother to her on many occasions.

"[Joannie] is a child who was clearly adored by her parents, her mother was at the centre of everything in her eyes," said the commentator.

"Her dad put her on the ice first of all, but her mom was there all the way."

'Honour her memory'

As for Rochette staying in the competition, Kwong said it doesn’t surprise her.

"My experience with high performance athletes is they are able to set aside everything and just focus on the physical, and that’s what makes them high performance athletes.

"My thinking is she wants to pay tribute to her mother’s sacrifices and what it took the Rochette family to get to this point. This is the best way to honour her memory and do that."

Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director, said the rest of the team had been told the news before it was announced publicly.

"We'll do our best to manage it, but out first thoughts are with Jo and her family," he said. "We'll go step by step."

Team chef de mission Natalie Lambert said Rochette will be supported no matter what she finally decides to do.

"She may change her mind and that's fine, too," Lambert said. "I think she owes it to herself to go on that ice, to have no regrets and fulfil that dream that she had.

"It's going to be really hard physically and really hard emotionally for sure."

With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press