|Joannie Rochette is not prepared "emotionally or physically" to skate at the worlds. (QMI Agency/Al Charest)
The death of her mother Therese is still taking an emotional toll on Quebec figure skatier Joannie Rochette, who announced on Monday that she is withdrawing from next week's world championships in Turin, Italy.
"With everything that has happened over the past few weeks, I have missed a significant amount of training time," Rochette said in a statement. "That means I'm not prepared either emotionally or physically to skate well at these championships and once again challenge for the podium.
"Whenever I compete, I want to give my best to the fans, and to respect the competitive nature of the sport. I just would not be able to do that for either the fans or myself next week," the 24-year skater added.
Therese Rochette died of a heart attack in Vancouver, just days before Joannie skated at the Games. Despite the tragedy, the Ile-Dupas, Que. native persevered, winning a bronze medal behind Yu-Na Kim of South Korea and Japan's Mao Asada. She was named to carry Canada's flag at the closing ceremony at the Games.
Her spot in Turin will be filled by Myriane Samson, 22, of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. Cynthia Phaneuf, 22, of Contrecoeur, Que., will also skate at the worlds, which begin March 22.
"Not really," Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said when asked if he was surprised with Rochette's decision to withdraw.
"We knew after the Olympics that she was going to go through a difficult period when she got back home and that it would be hard to recover quickly. But we were behind any decision she decided to make."
Rochette also thanked her fans for their support.
"I want you all to know that your words of encouragement have truly helped me to get through this very difficult time," she said.
"I also want to wish our Canadian team members all the very best as they compete in [Turin]. They all have my best wishes for a great competition."
The International Skating Union, however, is not being particularly sympathetic to Rochette, threatening to sanction the skater with a loss of eligibility if she performs in an exhibition event on Thursday in Connecticut.
Rochette had planned to skate a routine in tribute to her mother, but ISU has threatened to sanction Rochette and/or Skate Canada if she goes forward with it.
Thompson said that he understands why the ISU is taking such a stand.
In past years, skaters sometimes withdrew from the worlds or other ISU sanctioned events and then took part in non-sanctioned events or performed exhibition skates, and that ultimately hurt the ISU's bottom line as fewer top skaters at ISU events meant less TV revenues.
And that, said Thompson, wasn't good for the ISU, or the skaters.
Still, Thompson said Skate Canada has asked the ISU to reconsider, and allow Rochette to participate on Thursday, given her circumstances.
"It's very easy to blast out (against the ISU) in the newspapers and say that this is ridiculous. But I understand where the ISU is coming from," said Thompson.