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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Joannie Rochette’s Magical Performance

Sometimes, less really is more.

If you’ve been following the Winter Olympics, then you’ve probably heard that figure skater Joannie Rochette, 24, of Canada lost her 55-year-old mom on Sunday to a heart attack. Just two days later, Rochette was on the ice for the short program.

I don’t know anything about ice skating, but I know how it feels to work hard for a dream and I know how it feels to lose a parent, so as I watched her take the ice, I felt all sorts of emotions for her.

She circled the ice before her program began and you could see tears brimming close to the surface. Just before she was announced, the crowd began to cheer for her. She put her hands on her hips and she took it all in. She stopped to have a moment with her coach and to take a drink of water. Her emotions threatened to burst out of her.

She took the ice again and you got the feeling that a momentary transition had taken place. The tears that desperately wanted to spill out morphed into adrenaline.

Suddenly, she was composed.

She paused, the music began, and she skated. I can’t tell you many of the moves she made because I don’t know what they are called. But she was graceful and she landed her initial jumps.

The crowd erupted.

The drama built.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many times her mom had seen her do this routine. Her dad was in the crowd and I felt for him as he experienced an extreme sense of loss while at the same time feeling immense pride in seeing his daughter skating so well in such a big moment.

About half way through her program, I noticed something. NBC announcers were silent from the moment her music began. Would they have enough sense to continue their silence so we could just experience the moment with Rochette?

I hoped so.

She landed another jump and the anticipation continued to build. The moment was bigger than Olympic Gold. It was about survival, and overcoming, and maybe even honoring her mother. Never has the old Eagles’ lyric “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget” been truer. It was about doing what she was born to do, no matter the situation.

She spun, lifted her leg high, twirled, and still the announcers were silent.


Olympics Ladies Figure Skating Short Program - Vancouver 2010
The music brought her program to a close and Rochette held her pose for a couple of seconds. Then the emotional dam broke.

She put her right hand over her heart and made a lap around the track, no longer trying to hold back the tears. Her father applauded and cried. I think everybody else did too.

Still nothing from the announcers.

As she headed for her coach, the announcers finally spoke. And it was time to speak.

“There’s no bigger stage than the Olympic games,” said announcer Scott Hamilton, choking back tears “but this skate, and the moment, means much more than the competition.”

Rochette collapsed into the arms of her coach and wept. You can watch the entire video here.

The judges gave her a 71.36 -- a personal best. Imagine performing at your absolute peak two days after losing your mother. She’s currently in third place as they head into the free skate on Thursday. It’d be great to see her win a medal. But either way, I bet there won’t by a dry eye in the place.


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