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.”
As the Olympics concluded, Rochette was named co-recipient (with Slovenian cross-country skier Petra Majdic) of the Vancouver 2010 Terry Fox Award, named after the late Canadian amputee runner who continues to touch the hearts of Canadians three decades after his ambitious cross-country run to find a cure for cancer. This award honored athletes who are the epitome of determination in motion, who pushed on no matter what the pain or obstacles in their path and inspired Canada and the world by displaying humility and selflessness in their treatment of others both on and off the field of play at the Olympic Winter Games.
“I didn’t plan on inspiring so many people,” Rochette said. “I know my mom is up there watching and is so proud, so thank you for all of your support throughout these Games.” She was also selected for the prestigious honor of being Canada’s flag bearer in the Closing Ceremonies.
“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.
There is a street in Rochette’s hometown of Île Dupas, Quebec named in her honor.
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 season, Rochette toured again with Investors Group Stars on Ice presented by Lindt in 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.”
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.
In June 2006, Rochette was introduced as a member of the Bell Champions team, nine accomplished Olympic and Paralympic athletes from Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Colombia, who are national ambassadors for Bell Canada. She is sponsored by Bell, COLD-FX, General Mills, Danone and Molson. In June of 2010, Joannie began working with Birks, a luxury jeweler in Canada, as a Brand Ambassador designing a personal jewelry collection which includes a sterling silver heart-shaped pendant which bears her signature.
In June 2010, Joannie attended the "Women of Distinction" luncheon with U.S. first lady Michelle Obama. On July 1, 2010, Joannie and Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, were invited guests of the Canadian Government to celebrate Canada Day 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.
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.
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