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In the week that was supposed to be the pinnacle of her skating career, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette was struck by tragedy. She was told on Sunday that her mother had died suddenly from what was presumed to be a massive heart attack. The mother, Therese Rochette, had arrived in Vancouver on Saturday with her husband Norman to watch her daughter participate in the Winter Olympics. On Saturday night, Therese's husband found her in bed, unresponsive. She was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead early the next morning. Despite the tragedy, Joannie decided to participate in the Games this weekend, taking part in a contest to keep her mother's Olympic dream alive. Sunday afternoon, the skater stepped into practice at the Pacific Coliseum with tears in her eyes, doing her best to be brave in the face of adversity. Many of her fans and teammates are stunned by the strength Joannie has demonstrated in the last few days, trying to offer support in anything she might need. Joannie's father stated in an interview on Sunday that his daughter was a very strong person, much more than he was, and that he was very proud of her.
The 24-year old skater is now trying to focus on the competition and has stated that she will not make a public statement until after the Games are over. She and her coach, Manon Perron, made an official statement thanking friends and fans for their support through the difficult time, acknowledging the profusion messages and texts they had been receiving since Sunday. Initially, Joannie's agent thought she would step out of the program. But the young skater decided to participate on Tuesday evening. Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said on Monday that his organization would support the young Rochette in anything she needed.
He made it clear that any decision she made was hers, and hers alone. Nonetheless, many have offered their support. aEoeOne thing of being at the Games, there are some pillars of certainty that competing may provide her in otherwise a very uncertain time in her life. There's the plan for training, the plan for competition. And at least it gives her something to look to beyond simply being in grief,aEï¿½ Thompson said. aEoeMaybe it will help her through this period of time.aEï¿½ Skating might be the best thing for her, giving her time to concentrate on something other than her grief and a chance to release energy. Regardless, the days, weeks, months ahead, will be difficult ones. Joannie began ice skating as a child, at age 6, encouraged by her mother. The Rochettes were a typical family, supporting their daughter and buoying her dreams. Joannie has finished six Canadian Championships and took fifth at the Turin Games 4 years ago. She was even thought to act as a challenge to the Korean skater, Kim Yu-Na. And in fact, she proved up to the challenge. Just two days after receiving the horrifying news, Joannie gave an incredible performance. She earned 71.36 aE" a personal best aE" and looks likely to take the bronze. She can continue her mother's dream even in her absence.