'Mother' knew break was best

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- The woman she looked upon as "a second mother," who had nurtured a child's immense talent the way only mothers know how, is no longer at her side.

But Joannie Rochette knows she will always have Manon Perron in her corner. Even if she isn't the one Rochette sees behind the boards anymore when she skates.

"Of course, she's still very supportive of my skating," Rochette said of Perron, the coach she parted ways with in October. "She still wants the best for me."

Rochette's rocket-like ascent into the world's elite has been the best story of this season in Canadian skating. It says here she will go the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy next year as our country's best hope for a medal in figure skating.

With all due respect to defending champion Cynthia Phaneuf, there is also a Canadian title waiting for Rochette at the end of the week. She is the rising star, a 19-year-old from Ile-Dupas, Que., whose seemingly boundless promise is rapidly being realized before our very eyes.

And as it all unfolds, Joannie Rochette can now say she truly understands.

She talks about the tears and the emotion of a breakup her young teenage heart probably never saw coming, at least not until last year, and she knows why it had to happen and why it did happen.

'SHE DID IT FOR ME'

"I think she did it for me," Rochette said of Perron's call, which came after Rochette landed only one triple jump at a provincial competition in Montreal. "She wanted the best to happen for me, that's why she did it."

Perhaps that was a little hard to see back in October. It's time for you to move on, Perron told her. Time for someone else to guide you to your biggest dreams.

"It was very, very hard for me," Rochette said. "I had been with Manon since I was very young.

"She was like a second mother to me."

Rochette collected herself, sat down with her parents and tried to figure out where the guiding light would come from next.

In the end, she chose Josee Normand and Sebastien Britten, and so began the daily trek from downtown Montreal to Les 4 Glaces in Brossard, Que., on the south shore.

But Rochette couldn't stop thinking about what she left behind. Suddenly, everything had changed, and everything she loved about the rink in St-Leonard, Que., wasn't there anymore.

"The (first) day I went to my new coaches, I cried the whole day," admitted Rochette. "It was hard because I wasn't really trained when I went to them, so I had to start back at zero."

As the days passed, something wonderful began to happen. Rochette reveled in the fertile training environment in Brossard, which is teeming with top-level Canadian skaters. Something new became something comfortable and something right.

RESULTS ASTONISHING

The results that followed, a mere three weeks after the fact, were nothing short of astonishing. Bronze at the Cup of China. Gold at Trophee Bompard in Paris. Then another bronze in her first try at the Grand Prix final against the world's best.

"It was really hard," said Rochette. "I didn't know how I would be doing. I had no idea, no expectations at all."

Now this week, where Rochette seems destined to win her first national senior championships. Perhaps the first of many.

There is already talk of world and Olympic medals in Rochette's future, and it's easy now to imagine it happening.

No doubt Manon Perron saw it all before any of us.

"Manon totally believed in Joannie and her ability to be on the podium at the Olympics," said CTV/TSN analyst Tracy Wilson.

"That's why the (coaching) transition was so successful. She is out there on the ice believing she has Manon's support."

It is, after all, the kind of thing mothers do. Better than anyone knows how.


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