VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Joannie Rochette once again found solace in her white leather boots as she skated round the Olympic rings embedded under the ice in the Pacific Coliseum just a day after her mother’s sudden death.
The 40-minute training session seemed to provide the 24-year-old with a welcome distraction on Monday and she smiled several times during a run through of her program just a day before the women’s competition gets under way.
What the last 30 hours have been like for the Canadian sweetheart one can only imagine but on the ice, she was professional to the end as she executed soaring jumps and dizzying spins that drew nods of approval from her coach Manon Perron.
“Joannie is showing us the level of readiness that is required before a short program. You saw she was able to do all her jumps, everything is ready. I was really pleased to see that all the levels in the spins were there, there were no hesitations,” said Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie.
“It’s one step at a time. We’re going to follow Joannie’s progress until tomorrow. It’s her decision but at this point I think it’s looking pretty good.”
The Canadian Olympic community have thrown a veil of protection around Rochette following the tragedy and although the skater is not expected to talk publicly until the end of the women’s event on Thursday, she has many people supporting her.
While she has a team of psychologists and other specialists at her disposal in the Athletes’ Village, where she has chosen to stay on, she has also been comforted by former synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette who knows only too well what Rochette is going through.
The swimmer’s then fiance Sylvain Lake committed suicide a week before Frechette competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
“When I heard the news it brought me back to 17 years ago,” Frechette told Canadian media after meeting Rochette on Sunday.
“Joannie has to hold on to something. I‘m sure she feels right now like the only thing she has left is skating. With me, I was in a state of shock for the first 24 hours, and all I wanted was to feel alive.”
Canadian Olympic Committee team leader Nathalie Lambert said no matter what Rochette does, it will be a win-win situation.
“I think she’s going to receive a wind of love (on Tuesday) night when she steps on the ice,” she said.
“She’s in a situation now where she can’t lose. If she doesn’t skate, we’ll love her. If she does skate, and do well, we’ll love her, and if she does skate and doesn’t do well, we’ll love her. And that’s the most important thing.”
(additional reporting by Sonia Oxley)
Editing by Miles Evans.