Grief pours out for Rochette's loss

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Joannie Rochette pratices the day after her mother passed away at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)



VANCOUVER — Joannie Rochette’s friends and teammates in the figure skating world reacted with sadness and solidarity in the wake of the death Sunday of her mother.

“It’s horrible,” said fellow Canadian singles skater Cynthia Phaneuf. “There is nothing more (tragic) than losing your mother and it makes you realize how important family is. Joannie is a very courageous person.

“I haven’t talked to her very much. What can you say to someone who lost their mother? I just told her, ‘I’m here for you if you need anything, if you want to talk.’ She has the support of all her teammates,” continued Phaneuf, adding that her teammate is doing the right thing by continuing on at the Games.

“She’s not going to be any better by staying home. It just shows she’s a very strong person. To be able to compete is impressive.”

Canadian skeleton competitor Mellisa Hollingsworth offered similar thoughts.

“My heart goes out to her and her family. I just wish I could give Joannie a big hug,” she said.

“It’s a tragedy. I’m shocked by it. I can’t imagine what Joannie will be going through,” said former Canadian skating great Brian Orser, who is coaching defending world women’s singles champion Yu-Na Kim of South Korea at these Games.

“I lost my mother 15 years ago and it’s devastating. My thoughts are with her and her family. It’s unbelievable.”

Orser also believes Rochette is making the right decision to carry on and compete.

“She’ll find strength and courage from the team, Manon (her coach Manon Perron) and the millions of fans who will be sending their thoughts and their love,” he said. “It’s good that she will continue to compete. She’s a great competitor and she’s in great shape. She will be skating for all the right reasons.

“She will find the strength,” Orser continued. “There just has to be the proper time for grieving. I knew her mom. Very nice, very supportive.

“I just heard when I got to the rink. I feel sorry for her,” added Kim, who also practiced on Sunday at the Pacific Coliseum.

Robin Wagner, who coached 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes and coaches Georgian Elene Gedevanishvili here, said her skater was devastated by the news.

“When we found out, I saw Elene’s eyes well up and I could tell she was thinking of her own mother. She has a young mom, too,” said Wagner. “You don’t expect that to happen to someone so young (age 55). We just saw Joannie at the dining hall in the village (Saturday). I don’t know how you perform. I guess, if you’re still in shock and it hasn’t hit you yet, you could get by that way.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

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