A star on ice

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

The power of the dream keeps pushing Joannie Rochette through a wonderful season of self-discovery.

It has taken her to the biggest figure skating stage of them all, where the two-time Canadian champion shocked many -- perhaps nobody more than herself -- by finishing fifth at the Turin Olympics.

Now another big-time opportunity, the HSBC Stars On Ice tour. And for the first time, Rochette is a full-fledged cast member with the annual spring extravaganza, which hits Scotiabank Place tomorrow night.

So here she is, sharing the ice with some of the biggest names in the skating world -- Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, and Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, to name a few.

Not a bad little gig for the girl from tiny Ile-Dupas, Que.

"It's always been a dream of mine to be part of Stars On Ice," said Rochette from Halifax, where the 12-city tour launched last night. "Last year, I was only a guest skater (for two shows). Now I'm doing all the group numbers, the opening and closing. I'm learning a lot.

"It's the first time I get to do these kinds of things."

Then again, Rochette -- a bright 20-year-old with a passion for sciences in the classroom -- has always been a fast learner. It also helps to have some top-notch role models right in front of her.

'FUN PEOPLE'

"They're fun people to be with," she says of her tour mates. "They're so relaxed out there on the ice. They don't feel nervous at all.

"I want to be like that, too."

Rochette surely has a knack for fitting in with the best. Her fifth-place finish in Turin was a major eye opener. Then came the world championships in Calgary, where Rochette found herself leading after the qualifying rounds.

She faltered in the short program, eventually finishing seventh. But Rochette went home convinced she belongs with the best.

"Everyone was telling me I could do well (against the world's top skaters)," she said. "I didn't really believe it. But definitely, I believe it now."

Browning, the tour's veteran, doesn't doubt it, either.

"Usually, when I practise with her, it's 'did you see how big that jump was?' or 'Did you see how fast she skated by?' " he said in Calgary. "That's not what I was thinking when I saw her in (worlds) qualifying. All that was there, but it was melded so nicely with a maturity.

"I'm becoming a bigger fan every day."

Ticket information for tomorrow's 7:30 p.m. show is available at www.capitaltickets.ca.


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