VANCOUVER - Dressed in black, Joannie Rochette wiped her eyes and took a deep breath before stepping on the ice. The rink has always been her comfort zone, now more than ever.
Rochette's mother, Therese, died of a massive heart attack early yesterday, just a few hours after arriving in Vancouver. The Canadian star still plans to skate, and was at practice yesterday afternoon after spending the morning at the Olympic village with her father, Normand.
"She's going to get through this," Canadian teammate Cynthia Phaneuf said. "She is just so strong. By being here and being able to compete after that happened, I'm just very impressed. I think she's doing the right thing. She won't get any stronger in her room."
The women's event begins tomorrow with the short program. Rochette will not speak publicly until she finishes competing, Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie said.
"She's so close to her mother, I think she doesn't even entertain not skating," said David Baden, Rochette's agent. "She's a tough fighter . . . This is what she has been training for all these years. She'll be trying to fulfill the goal they had together."
Rochette, 24, is Therese and Normand Rochette's only daughter. Therese Rochette was her daughter's "No. 1 fan," Lavoie said. It was Therese Rochette who shuttled her daughter back and forth to the rink when she was younger, Lavoie said.
Rochette had been in Vancouver since the opening ceremony, and her parents arrived Saturday from their home in Montreal. Baden said Therese and Normand Rochette visited Canada House and then went back to the apartment where they're staying. Normand Rochette later found his 55-year-old wife passed out, and rushed her to Vancouver General, where Skate Canada said she was pronounced dead. Normand Rochette went to the Olympic village early yesterday to tell his daughter of her mother's death.
"Joannie is doing as well as one can expect. It has been an emotional roller coaster for her," Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said. "She made the decision that she wants to compete and maintain her training schedule. It is providing her with stability in a very uncertain time of her life."