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.”