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Joannie Rochette moved by crowd's embrace as she wins figure skating bronze

The hardest part, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette said in the aftermath of her emotional bronze-medal performance Thursday, was forcing herself onto the ice to compete Tuesday.

Rochette struggled to focus on the Olympic women's short program. She couldn't stop thinking about her mother Therese, who died two days before of a sudden heart attack. Rochette's sadness still felt raw, her heart still sore.

"Emotions just got the better of me," Rochette said. "It was really hard to control them."

Rochette, 24, might have struggled with her emotions but, somehow, she took charge of her skating. She remained largely composed Thursday night as she secured what, under the circumstances, was a stunning bronze medal in the free skate.

Though her performance was not as flawless as it was Tuesday, it was strong enough to deflect any challenges to the third spot on the medal stand, and it was nearly good enough to push Japan's Mao Asada out of the silver medal. South Korea's Kim Yu-na won the gold almost without a challenge.After, Rochette gave nearly an hour of interviews, speaking publicly about the week for the first time. Though her eyes frequently welled up, she smiled, did not once break down, and even, at the end of the night, cracked a joke that broke up a press corps with laughter.

After describing how her mother would always stay for her figure skating practices when she was a girl--which prevented her from talking and playing around with her friends as she would have liked--she said: "Even though she is not here anymore, I'm not afraid to say, sometimes she was a pain in the ass."

Rochette said her mother introduced her first to swimming, which was not a success, and then to skating. Her father was an ice hockey coach, so many family outings took place at the rink. Her mother, she said, took an active role in her skating from the beginning.

"I knew she'd still be proud of me," Rochette said. "She was my biggest fan and my best friend. She was always with me, every step of the way."

Rochette learned of her mother's death 6 a.m. Sunday from her father. Her mother had just arrived with him from their home in Montreal the day before. Rochette did not consider pulling out of the competition and even appeared on the ice for practice Sunday morning.

After Tuesday's short program, Rochette dissolved in tears. She also received a powerful ovation from the crowd of more than 11,000 at the Pacific Coliseum.

"It was a very tough couple of days," Rochette said. "And I want to thank everyone around the world.... I felt so much love....It really helped me get on the ice and skate for myself, my country and my mother."

When she finished her performance Thursday, she looked heavenward and said thank you to her mother. She was completely spent when she finished the program, she said, emotionally and physically exhausted.

"I wanted to be strong and show her I could do this--that's what she would have wanted me to do," Rochette said. "I'm so lucky I got so much support. The fans... it was incredible."

By Amy Shipley  |  February 26, 2010; 2:27 AM ET
Categories:  Figure Skating  
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This is a perfect example of how much better viewing the Olympics is without NBC and Bob Costas. In Norway, where I was last week, the Nordic events - the whole Olympics - was covered with a live feed and several other feeds on tape. A nine-hour time difference made tape delay necessary. There was none of the gratuitous and confusing reprogramming, no irrelevant interviews with summer olympians, and no skipping entire events in favor of talking heads. Although Norwegians would have preferred to see their skiers on the podium, you can be sure that they telecast the combined Nordic event.

Posted by: virtualchemist | February 26, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Strong, she was...

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 26, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I am a proud and patriotic American but my heart and support were with this young woman.

When I reflect on Olympics, I envision selfless young talented people, patriots and people not only supported by country but most importantly the support and sacrifices of beloved family.

Her Mother is quite proud of her child. We all are.

Posted by: virgosiempre | February 26, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

I shed some tears on Tuesday watching her grace and resilience on that ice and I shed some tears again last night. I know what it is like to be given the almost heart stopping news that your Mom is gone and you have to carry on in spite of that most tragic and painful circumstance. Time does not stand still for those left behind although I most certainly wished I could turn the hands back and let that pendulum swing my way just for a milli-second so I could be there with my Mom. Alas, Gods ways are higher than our ways. God bless this very talented and beautiful athlete. May her mother Rest in ETERNAL Peace.

Posted by: FitDiva | February 26, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Considering her circumstances Jeannie Rochette skated magnificently. I was so impressed by her strength and determination to do well and honor her mother. The music she chose for her program was very appropriate. I would like to find out the name of that piece. How would I be able to accomplish that?
Thanks for your help.
Bernice Himber

Posted by: cybernice | February 26, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

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