Road-weary Rochette

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

Joannie Rochette is known for her eclectic taste in music, at least when it comes to choosing the songs for her skating programs.

The five-time Canadian figure skating champion skated her short program three seasons ago to Jimi Hendrix and then her free skate to N'as-tu pas Honte from Don Juan.

During the 2005-06 season, the defending world championship silver medallist chose Like A Prayer by Madonna for her short and L'Hymne A l'Amour Edith Piaf for her free.

This season, the Montreal-based skater performs her short program to La Cumparsita by Uruguayan composer Gerardo Matos Rodriguez and her free to Samson and Delilah by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens.

If there's a common thread to Rochette's programs it is that she is very international in her selection of music. She certainly has never been pegged down as a specific type of skater, (i.e. Elvis Stojko and his macho, martial arts-themed programs), which keeps her programs fresh.

All of which is great. Except that, while her music is international, so too is her lifestyle. Probably a bit too much. At least this season.

Rochette, 23, skated the second best free skate in the women's singles competition at the Cup of China in Beijing yesterday to win a bronze medal, scoring 111.06 points in the free and 163.18 overall.

The event was won by Japan's Akiko Suzuki with an overall score of 176.66, followed by Finland's Kiira Korpi with 163.27 -- two skaters who Rochette really should beat.

The problem is, or was, Rochette bombed out in her short program on Friday, placing seventh.

In a conference call yesterday from Beijing, the native of Ile Dupas, Que., admitted she was feeling the impact of a very hectic travel schedule, as well as too many off-ice obligations, when she arrived in China.

And this being an Olympic year, on home ice no less, Rochette said she has to focus on training, and not travelling, in the months leading up to Vancouver, or she might find herself in less than top form at the Games.

"It's a good lesson for the Olympics," the personable skater said.

"I think this is telling me that I need to learn to say no. I need to do less outside of my training."

It's no wonder Rochette was tired leading into the Cup of China. Her schedule the last few months, on top of the usual training, testing and personal appearances, has been extremely busy.

For instance, in June, she travelled to Peru with the charity World Vision. A month later, she did a skating show in South Korea.

A few weeks ago, she was in Tokyo for the Japan Cup. And this past week, she was back in Asia for the Cup of China.

Throw in side trips to Toronto and Newfoundland, and places in between, over the past few months, and you've got one fatigued figure skater.

Still, Rochette, who last season became the first Canadian woman since Elizabeth Manley in 1988 to win a medal at the world championship, would not use exhaustion as an excuse for her mediocre showing in the short program -- where she doubled a triple Lutz and singled her Axel.

"I could feel the jet lag, but it was the same for everybody," she said. "I (should be able to do) the Axel even if I haven't slept for days."

Fortunately, Rochette's second Grand Prix assignment is the HomeSense Skate Canada International, Nov.19-22 in Kitchener.

"It will be such a relief to be at home and to feel the energy of the Canadian fans," she said.

Rochette wasn't the only Canadian to produce a much stronger performance yesterday.

Diane Szmiett of Watford, Ont., also made an impressive leap in the standings, climbing from 11th to eighth with a personal best 144.28 points, cracking the 100 point barrier for her free skate -- the fourth best free of the day. Szmiett, 19, finished fourth at last year's Canadians.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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