With an entire country and sold-out crowd behind her, the one person Joannie Rochette was missing was her biggest fan.
Just four days after the passing of her mother, the six-time national champion captured the bronze medal in the women’s free skate behind an emotional performance that will be remembered for years to come.
“I feel proud and the result didn’t matter but I’m happy to be on the podium,” Rochette told Quebec Media, Inc. “This was a lifetime project with my mom and we achieved that.”
Rochette, appearing incredibly focused during her routine, was unable to contain her emotions the moment she stepped on to the podium. Tears of joy, compromised by grief, overcame Rochette as she was presented with her medal.
“I still don’t know how I could do this and not start crying before the music starts. But that was my goal and I’m just really proud that I could skate,” she said.
She is the first Candian female skater to win an Olympic medal since Elizabeth Manley won silver at the 1988 Calgary Games, in an unforgettable performance of her own.
Kim Yu-Na won the gold, turning in a near-flawless free skate in what will go down as one of the most compelling events in women’s Olympic figure skating history. She becomes the first figure skating champion from South Korea.
“I still can’t believe it because I was waiting for this moment and it [seemed] like just a dream,” Kim told CTV. “But this is not a dream anymore, and I’m really glad I’m Olympic champion.”
A national icon and cultural sensation in her homeland, Kim proved to the world that she is head and shoulders above the competition.
Kim, skating to “Concerto” by G. Gershwin, nailed her triple-lutz triple-toe-loop combination and double-axel triple-toe-loop with flawless execution. Her 150.06 free skate was a world record, finishing with a total of 228.56.
After a record short program, the 19-year-old followed with one of the best free skates of all-time. Coached by Canadian two-time Olympic silver medallist Brian Orser, Kim showed poise and focus well beyond her age, while landing all of of her jumps with style and precision.
Mao Asada of Japan won the silver, scoring 205.50 points behind a stellar triple axel followed by a triple-axel double-toe combination. Her less than perfect step sequences coupled with Kim’s virtuoso performance prevented her from realizing the top of the podium.
Mirai Nagasu of the U.S. finished fourth, scoring a total of 190.15. It is the first time since 1964 that an American female has not medalled in the event.
Rochette skated just well enough to win silver after perfectly landing her triple-lutz double-toe-loop double-loop comination, but missed the mark on her triple-flip landing.
Skating to Samson and Delilah, Rochette landed a triple-toe-loop triple- salchow sequence and skated clean enough along the way to an overall score of 202.64.
The 24-year-old showed tremendous courage during the aftermath of such personal tragedy.
Therese Rochette, 55, died of a heart attack last Sunday morning, two days before her daughter was scheduled to skate in the women’s short program.
Just hours later, Rochette was seen practicing on the ice with her father Normand, grief stricken with emotion, watching on from the stands.
Her father was once again in attendance during the free skate, fighting back emotion on several occasions while his daughter captivated the Pacific Coliseum.
Canadian Cynthia Phaneuf, who finished 12th after the free skate, commended Rochette’s strength and believed it was important for her teammate to stay in Vancouver and compete.
“She won’t get any better staying in her room, said Phaneuf. “It shows how strong she is. It shows that she is a person to look up to here.”
In Tuesday’s short program, Rochette managed to channel such emotion while delivering a technically sound skate and giving her a chance to reach the podium with a personal-best 71.36.
The Ile Dupas, Que. native was just as ready Thursday, albeit with the help of her mother.
“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,” she said.