Kim Yuna and Joannie Rochette shine on thin ice of emotion

Fri Feb 26, 2010 8:27am EST
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By Julian Linden

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - South Korea's Kim Yuna shrugged off the weight of expectation from her homeland to win figure skating gold on Thursday but Canada's Joannie Rochette won most hearts by overcoming heavy personal grief to claim a bronze medal.

An extraordinary day of raw human emotion and unrelenting drama at the Vancouver Winter Olympics also saw Norwegian cross country skier Marit Bjoergen become the first triple gold medalist of the Games and Canada win the women's ice hockey to join Germany and the United States at the top of the medal standings.

The Canadians beat the U.S. 2-0 to trigger wild celebrations at Canada Hockey Place -- and add to the suffocating pressure on the men's team to emulate their feat in the final event of the Games on Sunday.

It was the evening figure skating, however, which provided Thursday's icing on the cake after another day of enthralling action on all competition arenas.

Yuna, 19, showed poise and grace beyond her tender years to win the women's figure skating gold with a record total of 228.56 points, well clear of Japan's Mao Asada, who finished second, and Rochette, who maintained her composure to win the bronze just four days after her mother suddenly died.

"I do not see myself as a hero. When I stepped on to the ice I knew I had to be as cold as possible. My legs were shaking but my mother was there with me, giving me strength," an emotional Rochette told reporters.

"It was almost like a relief going on the ice. I needed to be in a state of mind where I was Joannie the athlete and not Joannie the person. I was shaking but I knew that I would leave everything on that ice."

ROYAL APPROVAL   Continued...

<p>Bronze medallist Canada's Joannie Rochette (L) hugs gold medallist South Korea's Kim Yu-Na during the medals ceremony for the women's figure skating event at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 25, 2010. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>