Joannie Rochette

Joannie Rochette will have different role at Sochi Olympics

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Joannie Rochette won’t be competing, but the Canadian figure skater who displayed tremendous courage in winning bronze in 2010 will still be at the Sochi Olympics.

Rochette, now 27, skated at the Vancouver Olympics two days after the sudden death of her mother, Therese. Her emotional bronze captured hearts and became one of the poignant performances of the Games. She hasn’t competed at a major national or international event since and will go to Sochi with Canadian TV broadcaster CBC and sponsor Visa.

She said the decision not to try for a third Olympic berth “just came naturally.”

“I’ve been doing shows for 3 1/2 years now, and I really love it,” Rochette said in a phone interview Monday. “That’s my life.”

She will skate in three weeks at the Japan Open, a team event scheduled to include U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, Olympic silver medalist Mao Asada and Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi.

“I’m still training and still enjoy skating, but there’s a big difference between doing the Japan Open and doing the Olympics,” Rochette said. “It’s more to give myself a personal challenge. I don’t have the added pressure of competing in the Olympics.”

Rochette said she has no idea how she was able to skate at the 2010 Olympics two days after her mother died of a heart attack at age 55. She was excellent, scoring a personal best in her short program and holding onto that third-place spot after the free skate two nights later.

“When something like that happens the pressure is on, and you just do it, you just forge ahead,” Rochette said. “The biggest challenge was to stop thinking about everything and skate.”

The Quebec native said she’s still negotiating her Sochi Olympic role with CBC and that it will primarily be in French.

“I’m new to the TV world,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll be doing figure skating or more like every sport, the perspective of an athlete.”

Rochette sounded like a seasoned analyst breaking down the women’s figure skating field for Sochi. Canadian hopes will rest on Kaetlyn Osmond, 17, who placed eighth at her first World Championships in March.

“I think her potential is endless,” Rochette said. “I saw her two years ago when she was third (at the Canadian nationals). Just to see how much she improved in less than a year is incredible. She came back the following year and won Skate Canada.

“She did not even seem intimidated, and she’s still quite young. There are still things she needs to improve to challenge the top ladies … but I definitely think she can be top 10 (in Sochi).”

As for the medal contenders, Rochette was impressed by Olympic champion Yuna Kim‘s comeback to win the world title by a whopping 20 points in March. Kim is attempting to become the first woman since Katarina Witt in 1988 to defend an Olympic figure skating title.

Is she beatable?

“Yuna at her best is quite hard to beat, honestly, but I would like to say, yes, that it’s still possible,” Rochette said. “At World Championships this year, there was no question she was untouchable. As of now, watching worlds, I would put my money Yuna, but Mao (Asada) can do a triple axel, come to the Olympics and skate really well. So you never know what can happen.”

Gracie Gold stumbles amid coaching uncertainty

Patrick Chan plans to retire after 2018 Olympic season

Patrick Chan
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Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan said he plans to make the 2017-18 figure skating season his last, as expected.

“Yes, I have many projects lined up ahead after my competitive career,” Chan told media Wednesday.

Chan, at 25, is arguably young enough to keep skating beyond the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, which would be his third Winter Games.

But the three-time world champion (2011, 2012, 2013), who is currently coach-less following the surprise resignation of Kathy Johnson earlier this month, is in awe of the jumps that younger skaters are throwing.

“Honestly, just look at [Japanese] Shoma’s [Uno] quad flip,” Chan joked with media. “That’s enough of an answer to just be like, yeah, this is my time. I’m going to leave on a high.”

Chan earned silver at the 2014 Olympics behind Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, then took one season off from competition.

He returned last year, beating Hanyu at Skate Canada but finishing a disappointing fifth at the world championships after a disastrous free skate. That marked his worst worlds finish since his debut in 2008 as a 17-year-old.

Chan said before last season’s worlds that his performance there would determine whether he continued skating through the 2018 Olympics.

“I’m at a disadvantage now, technically,” Chan said in March. “I’m competing against men who are doing five quads between the short program and the long program, and I’m at three between the two programs. Who would ever imagine that three wasn’t enough for some people?”

Chan remains the best Canadian skater. He won his eighth national title last year.

Chan will make his Grand Prix series debut at Skate Canada the last weekend of October, against a field that again includes Hanyu.

MORE: 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships host set

Final three Pyeongchang Olympic men’s hockey spots set to be filled

Anze Kopitar
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The 2018 Olympic men’s hockey field of 12 teams will be complete by the end of this weekend.

The last three spots will go to winners of three round-robin qualifying tournaments in Europe that run from Thursday through Sunday.

The Olympic Channel will stream the action.

The current Olympic men’s hockey groups (world ranking in parentheses):

Group A Group B Group C
Canada (1) Russia (2) Finland (3)
Czech Republic (6) USA (4) Sweden (5)
Switzerland (7) Slovakia (8) Qualifier
South Korea (23 — host) Qualifier Qualifier

Those three qualifiers will be the winners of these three tournaments this weekend:

Tournament 1 Tournament 2 Tournament 3
Belarus (9 — host) Germany (10) Norway (11 — host)
Denmark (13) Latvia (12 — host) France (14)
Slovenia (15) Austria (17) Kazakhstan (16)
Poland (20) Japan (21) Italy (18)

All of the Olympic medal contenders are among the nine nations already in the Pyeongchang field, but a few notables are vying for spots this weekend.

Belarus memorably upset Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarterfinals and wound up fourth in Salt Lake City. It last competed in the Olympics in 2010. Belarus’ biggest competition in its qualifying tournament may be Slovenia, which won two games at the Sochi Olympics and is led by Los Angeles Kings All-Star Anze Kopitar.

Like Belarus, Germany also last played at the Olympics in 2010. More recently, it beat the U.S. at the World Championship in May, behind New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss. To get to Pyeongchang, Germany must top a group that includes host Latvia, which made the last four Olympics and beat Switzerland in Sochi.

Norway hosts the group with the least amount of recent Olympic experience. None of France, Kazakhstan or Italy made either of the last two Olympics. Norway ought to be favored, then, since it reached the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, though it lost every contest at both Winter Games. New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello stars for the Norwegians.

It’s unknown whether the NHL will send its players to the 2018 Olympics.

MORE: Canada holds Soviet-like dominance after another world hockey title