The audience at Pacific Coliseum, all of Canada, and skating fans the world over held their breaths as six-time Canadian Ladies Champion Joannie Rochette took the ice for the ladies short program at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. Two days earlier her mother, Thérèse, had died of a sudden heart attack. Knowing her mother's dream was to see her win an Olympic medal, Rochette made the decision to compete.
Keeping her emotions in check throughout her program, Rochette delivered an exquisite performance to "La Cumparsita." Two days later, she put the finishing touches on her mother's dream by winning the bronze medal with her free skate set to "Samson and Delilah." In doing so she became the first Canadian ladies competitor to stand on the Olympic medal podium in 22 years.
"I just went out there and did what my mother would have wanted me to do," said Rochette through tears after her free skate. "I didn't have much strength. I didn't sleep much. But that last triple, my mom was lifting me up because I had no more legs. I really feel that it happened."
"Joannie touched all of us this week with her determination to push on and compete here at Canada's Games even as she struggled with the painful sudden loss of her mother, Thérèse. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when she took to the ice on Tuesday after her mother's death. We all held our breath and willed her on as she gave a remarkable, dignified performance—one that helped her earn bronze. Her grief, determination and her grace have touched all of us," said John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Rochette has long been known for her powerful, dynamic and lyrical skating. Her astounding presence on the ice immediately captures your attention. She made her first big mark on Canadian skating in 2000 and 2001, winning the Novice and Junior titles back to back. The following year, she claimed the bronze medal in her senior debut.
A second-place finish at the 2003 Canadian Championships earned her a trip to the World Championships, to which she has returned every year since, placing in the top 10 four times, including a silver medal finish in 2009. She has won several International Skating Union Grand Prix events, including Trophée Eric Bompard and Skate Canada, and she has qualified for the ISU Grand Prix Final three times. She has also medaled three times at the ISU Four Continents Championships.
As Rochette has matured and grown so has her confidence and artistry. Former Canadian and World Ice Dance Champion Shae-Lynn Bourne and renowned choreographer Lori Nichol created her programs for this season.
"I wanted to do a sensual tango [for my short program] because I'm older than some of the ladies competing and I want to show more maturity. I looked at videos of [two-time Olympic gold medalist] Katarina Witt. She was not a little ballerina. When she was on the ice doing ‘Carmen' she looked people in the eyes and she was very serious. I felt that was more my style," Rochette told the press at the beginning of this season.
Last spring, Rochette toured again with Sears Stars on Ice Canada. "It's nice to be outside of a competitive environment," she says. "You just get on the ice and the fans are there to watch you skate. Everyone is happy to be there. It's good to be skating without that pressure and be able to perform more freely." Joannie has been part of the Canadian Stars on Ice tour since 2006.
Rochette has also shown a commitment to humanitarian causes, traveling to Peru last June with World Vision Canada, a charity that helps sponsor disadvantaged children throughout the world.
Away from skating, Rochette continues to pursue formal education at the College Andre-Grasset in Montreal, where she is studying natural and health sciences. "I'm very competitive at school as well," she says. "Sometimes nights are shorter when you're studying for an exam, but it's good to keep my head busy. When I'm done with my skating career, there's another life after it. When I'm ready for it, I want my studies to be there." She may continue to study science or shift her focus to business.
Other off-ice interests include jumping trampoline, ballet, yoga, roller blading, reading, dancing and music.
Joannie Rochette - Accomplishments
- Co-recipient of the Vancouver 2010 Terry Fox Award
- Flag bearer in the Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics for Canada
- In June 2006, Rochette was introduced as a member of the Bell Champions team; nine accomplished Olympic and Paralympic athletes who are national ambassadors for Bell Canada
- In Fall of 2010, Birks introduced Joannie's personal jewelry collection
- In June 2010, Joannie attended the "Women of Distinction" luncheon with U.S. first lady Michelle Obama
- Joannie and Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, were invited guests of the Canadian Government to celebrate Canada Day 2010 in Ottawa. After meeting with Queen Elizabeth, Joannie spoke to the Nation to commemorate Canada Day.
- Joannie's performance at 2010 Winter Olympics was nominated in the ‘Best Moment' category at the 2010 ESPY Awards.
- There is a street in Rochette's hometown of Île Dupas, Quebec named in her honor.
Q & A with Joannie Rochette
What has your life been like since skating with Stars on Ice last year? Anything new you'd like to share?
I’ve done a lot of skating shows (in Korea, Canada, Japan, etc.), and I competed in Japan at the Japan Open. I’ve also spent some time decorating my new place and getting settled in.
After a long time of touring on the road with Stars on Ice, what is the first thing you like to do when you get home?
Unpack my suitcase which I have been living in for so long ! Sleep. Spend time with my friends.
You have a street in your hometown named in your honor, when was the last time you walked/drove down it?
Probably three years ago when I took my boyfriend to show him. It's a new street and there are more and more houses on it!
When you're not getting dressed in one of your gorgeous costumes for a performance, what is one of your must-have accessories for an everyday outfit?
My lip gloss and my big sunglasses
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Don't fall. - my coach Manon
If you could pick any celebrity to be your skating partner, who would it be?
Does Rafael Nadal skate?