Joannie plays last tribute to mother

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:50 PM ET

BERTHIERVILLE, Que. - Olympic medalist Joannie Rochette sobbed as she paid tribute to her mother Thursday during a funeral for Therese Rochette and placed her recently-won bronze medal on her casket.

Therese, 55, died Feb. 21 of a heart attack. Her death happened on the same day she arrived to watch her daughter skate in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Joannie said her mother was her biggest supporter.

"My mother spent her life organizing parties for me and paying me tribute. Today, we're here for her," she said at the religious service.

Rochette, 24, said her mother would live in her forever.

"I thank her for the person I've become," she said, her voice punctuated with sobs.

The ceremony, both solemn and moving, took place at Sainte-Genevieve Church, in Berthierville, Que., a short distance from Ile-Dupas, where the Rochette family lives.

Near the end of the service, Joannie made her way over to the casket, laying the bronze medal she won last week on it.

She said the gesture was to show her mother that "this medal was won by the both of us."

In addition to family and friends, several public figures attended the funeral service, among them Michelle Courchesne, minister of Education, Leisure and Sport, and Marcle Aubut, co-president of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Courchesne, who did not personally know Thrse Rochette, said it was important for her to be present at the religious service.

"I came to acknowledge Joannie's courage, but also to thank her for having represented Quebec so well in Vancouver," the minister explained to the horde of journalists present.

"It was my duty to be here," Aubut said. "We had to come and tell this great lady how big a role she played in her daughter's success. Without parents like her, there would be no athletes performing so well."


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