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Mother of Canadian skater Therese Rochette dies

Therese Rochette, the mother of Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette, died at Vancouver General Hospital after suffering a heart attack late Saturday night, according to Olympic officials and news reports. She was 55.

Joannie Rochette, 24, showed up at her scheduled practice Sunday wiping tears from her eyes, and intends to compete, according to Skate Canada.

"Joannie is doing as well as one can expect," said William Thompson, Skate Canada chief executive officer. "It has been an emotional roller coaster for her. 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 life."

Her mother became ill hours after arriving to Vancouver from Montreal with her husband, according to the Canadian Press. Thompson said Rochette's father and family friends were with her, and she had a sports psychologist staying with her in the Olympic Villlage.

"We are all shocked and saddened," Jeff Buttle, the 2006 Olympic bronze medallist and a friend of Rochette, told CP. "Joannie is a strong person, and I am there to help and support her in any way possible. The best thing we can do for her is to respect her privacy at this time."

The women's figure skating competition begins Tuesday and Rochette, a five-time Canadian national champion, is a medal favorite.

"It's horrible," Canadian skater Cynthia Phaneuf said. "It's very bad news for [Joannie]. There is nothing more important than losing your mom. It makes you realize how important family is. Joannie is a very courageous person."

Phaneuf said she was surprised Rochette would compete, but "I think she's doing the right thing. She's not going to get any better by staying in her room ... Hats off that she is competing."

By Amy Shipley  |  February 21, 2010; 5:44 PM ET
Categories:  Figure Skating  
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