Therese Rochette passed away on Sunday.
On Tuesday night, her daughter captivated the world.
Her daughter is Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette, and this will certainly not be the last time that you read her name. Rochette took to the ice on Tuesday night in the women’s short program competition. She managed to sustain a stoic appearance during warm-ups and into her routine. Figure skating, a sport that has been rather unfairly bashed by us here at SC from time to time, is truly an athletic art of emotion.
Say what you want, but there is little argument against the fact that few athletes show more of themselves during a performance than a figure skater. So as Rochette made her way through a near flawless program, it was not too difficult to see the stoic mask fading. Analysts like to say that an athlete’s sport keeps them together in times like these. Well, if that is the case, then you could clearly see the medicinal effects of figure skating wearing off as Rochette reached her routine’s final stages.
At the precise moment that the program ended, the composed mask was removed. Rochette wept heavily as she bowed before the most adoring crowd that these games will see until her next run on Thursday. She cried in tragedy, tribute and triumph, out of mental exhaustion and Olympic jubilation. At one time not long ago, she probably looked up into the stands to see her mother’s reaction after three minutes of grace. Now she simply looked to the sky.
NBC cameras flashed to a man that announcers identified as Rochette’s father who was weeping with emotion in the stands. Except later it was discovered that the man was not really her father, but rather a friend of the family. NBC admitted their error, but it didn’t really matter. Because on this night, it wasn’t hard to confuse an emotional spectator with a close family member. After all, it seemed that at 16,281, the capacity of Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, Rochette had the world’s largest extended family, atleast for a night.
Rochette then took the routine skate over to her coach, but the moment was anything but routine. Some coaches greet their skaters with handshakes or brief hugs, Rochette and her coach fully embraced in a tearful moment. They waited for a score to be announced. Rochette found out that she will be in third place going into Thursday’s conclusion of the women’s figure skating competition.
“I will remember this forever,” said 24-year-old Rochette in a written statement that she prepared for the press.
Therese Rochette died of a massive heart attack just a few hours after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter live out a dream. She was 55 years old.
Regardless of what happens next, a terrible event followed by a courageous response has created one of the more memorable Olympic moments of all time. It is events like Tuesday night that make the Olympics the tremendous, transparent occasion that they are.
It is unlikely that any form of Olympic success on Thursday will make the startling loss of her mother any less painful for Rochette. Medals look great on display, they don’t replace lives. However, what this does do is leave Rochette and everyone that witnessed her performance with a memory. A memory that reminds people just how great and meaningful sports can be.