Reuters - Fri, 26 Feb 09:08:00 2010
A composed Joannie Rochette betrayed little of her emotional turmoil as she gracefully glided to the Olympic figure skating bronze and then wondered what her late mother would have made of her effort.
Competing four days after the death of the woman she described as "my biggest fan, my best friend", the Canadian blew a kiss skywards at the end of her routine and was all smiles as she took her bow.
The 24-year-old broke down in tears after Tuesday's short programme but put on a brave face to claim third place after the free skate.
As she waited for her score in the kiss and cry area, she told her mum she loved her.
"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," an emotional Rochette said.
"It was almost like a relief going on the ice. I needed to be in a state of mind where I was Joannie the athlete and not Joannie the person. I was shaking but I knew that I would leave everything on that ice.
"I'm really glad I did this because in 10 years from now when the pain has gone away a little bit I would've wished I had skated here. My mum told me last week I'm sure you're going to get it, I know it and that really gave me strength."
At times giggling and at others crying, Rochette battled to keep composed around a throng of reporters.
"With all that had happened I did not have enough strength but there. I had no more inside me but my mom was lifting me up," she said, her voice cracking up, tears filling her eyes.
"There were moments I just wanted to go home and be with my family, take care of my dad."
Every jump she landed was cheered by a crowd willing her to do well and the slight mistakes she made on the triple flip and a double Axel combination were met with sympathetic applause.
"Rocket Rochette" and "Go Jo" read the banners as home fans erupted when it was confirmed that her 131.28 points for the free skate were enough to secure the third place she had occupied since the short programme.
She wondered what her mum, who introduced her to the sport and drove her to the rink, would have made of her routine.
"In school I'd get 98 - and she'd tell me where did you lose those two points? (Today she would say): That triple flip, why did you take it out - what's wrong? Why did you take out that double Axel?" Rochette said.
"Sometimes, I can say this, she was a pain in the ass.
"I know she'd still be proud of me."
South Korea's Kim Yuna dazzled to take the gold and Japan's Mao Asada recovered from a wobble to secure silver, but it was Rochette's poise in her turquoise dress that won many hearts.
It was only when the bronze medal was placed around her neck that Rochette began biting her lip and fighting back the tears but she recovered to clap her rivals and put a Canadian flag over her shoulders for a victory lap.
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