Rochette's reprieve is only just

LORRIE GOLDSTEIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

For a while there, it looked as if the International Skating Union had no heart.

And no brains.

Its now-rescinded threat to sanction Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette, still mourning the loss of her mother after her courageous bronze medal win at the Vancouver Olympics, unless she competed at next week's world championships in Turin, Italy, was outrageous.

Rochette's mother, Therese, died of a heart attack on the eve of her competition at the Games, yet the 24-year-old Quebec skater somehow found the strength to compete in tribute to her mother.

It was a transcendent moment in sport -- what the Olympics are supposed to be all about. When Rochette took to the ice in Vancouver, Canadians didn't care if she won a medal. What made her story so compelling was her iron resolve to honour her mother's memory.

But once the bubble of the Olympics was over, she obviously needed time to grieve.

For the ISU to expect her to maintain her rigorous training regimen in preparation for the world championships was absurd.

The problem occurred Monday when Rochette announced she wouldn't compete in Turin because of the emotional strain caused by her mother's death, but would perform an exhibition skate in tribute to her mother at a competition in Connecticut later this week.

This placed her in violation of an ISU rule that skaters can't ditch ISU-sanctioned events for non-sanctioned ones. In Rochette's exceptional circumstance, this rule made no sense.

For her to want to skate a non-competitive tribute to her mother to the song Vole by Celine Dion, her mom's favourite singer and the same routine she performed at the post-competition skating exhibition during the Olympics, was totally understandable. (Rochette will also perform in the first four shows of the U.S. "Stars on Ice" tour starting next month.)

By contrast, for the ISU to expect her to scrap this tribute and instead compete at a world-class level in Turin next week, was completely unreasonable.

Fortunately, compassion and common sense prevailed Tuesday when the ISU announced it wouldn't sanction Rochette for skating in Connecticut and for not competing in Turin.

Good thing. Any other decision would have disgraced the sport.


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