Joannie's Rochette's emotional quest for gold
Published Tuesday, February 23, 2010 5:47PM EST
Tuesday night will be an emotional one at the Olympics, as Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette goes for gold just days after the sudden death of her mother.
Therese Rochette, 55, died of a heart attack in Vancouver on Sunday, shortly after arriving to watch her daughter compete.
Joannie Rochette is the reigning six-time national champion, and is considered Canada's best hope for a women's figure skating medal.
In Rochette's hometown of Ile Dupas, about 82 kilometres northeast of Montreal, her supporters are offering messages of love and words of encouragement.
"It's hard to express all our feelings but we are backing her," said one supporter.
Melanie Bellehumeur, who skated with Rochette when she was younger, said she admires the athlete's determination to compete in spite of her loss.
"I feel she's even more courageous than I thought before," said Bellehumeur.
Rochette's grandparents, Arthur and Antoinette Guevremont, told CTV Montreal reporter Rob Lurie they believe Rochette made the right decision.
"I'm happy that she's going ahead with it," said her grandmother, adding that Rochette might regret it if she gave up the chance to compete.
"Even if she doesn't win a medal, I'll still be happy," Guevremont said.
In Trois Rivieres, at Rochette's former high school, students sent video messages to comfort the grieving skater.
Family members, friends and fans all offered similar advice.
"Just skate for you and your mom, do your best," said family friend Heather Valiquette.
Rochette grateful for support
On Monday, Rochette and her coach Manon Perron released their first public statement, since Therese's death.
"We both want to thank all the people here and across Canada for their support. We have received so many emails and texts, and we wanted people to know that we read everything that you are sending. We also want everyone to know that these messages are helping us to get through this. We are going to do it with (Rochette's mother, Therese). Even though we aren't able to respond to everyone, please keep them coming for both of us," the statement read.