Forget Sidney Crosby.
Joannie Rochette is Canada’s hero on ice.
Rochette last night honored her mother’s memory with a bronze medal in the marquee event of these Games. More than that, she reminded medal-desperate Canada that it is more important to simply seek personal excellence than to Own the Podium.
Over and over last night, in the wake of her mother's death, Rochette said she resisted the pull of her hometown in Quebec, stayed in Vancouver and skated for herself.
For Canada, yes; for her mother, Therese, who died here Sunday of a heart attack, yes.
But first, for herself.
“I really wanted to skate here. For respect for myself, for how hard I had worked. … My mother always told me to do it for myself,” said Rochette, who will stay through the Games' end Sunday. “She always wanted me to be a strong person.”
Rochette finished third, almost 30 points behind the record 228.56 set by Korean favorite Yu-Na Kim but just 2.86 points behind Japanese disappointment Mao Asada.
When Rochette finished her routine she blew a one-handed kiss to the crowd. She tossed a two-handed kiss to the heavens. She received her third-place score and waited to see if Mirai Nagasi, the final competitor and America’s hope for a medal, could unseat her. Nagasi fell 12.49 short.
The sellout crowd at the Pacific Coliseum erupted. Rochette held it together.
Through the medal ceremony and endless interviews, Rochette remained composed, for almost an hour.
“I wanted to skate, to make my mother proud – and my father, who was in the crowd,” she said.
“I couldn’t skate tonight as Joannie, the person; I had to skate as Joannie, the athlete,” she said.
“It wasn’t easy to see my mother … ” and there, she backed away from the microphone, that image too much. But just for a moment. She dried her eyes, and returned:
“I realize people are inspired by this. I don’t see myself as a hero, or anything like that.”
She’s the only one.