Joannie Rochette must be emotionally drained in the wake of her mother Therese’s death. The tragic news comes on the eve of the most important competition of the young skater’s life.
But Rochette should take heart because she is not alone. The country mourns with her and supports her agonizing decision to leave the Olympic city or remain to take part in the Games.
There is more than one precedent in Canadian history for this kind of occurrence at a critical time. Perhaps Rochette can draw some comfort and strength from those who have gone before her.
In 1992, one week before the Barcelona Olympics, medal-favoured synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette endured the suicide of her fiancé. Frechette chose to compete at the Games and won gold.
Just two days prior to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, hockey player Danielle Goyette’s father, Henri-Paul, died from complications associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In her first game just three days later, Goyette scored three goals and added an assist as Canada began the tournament with a victory against Japan. The Canadians went on to win a silver medal.
Finally, and most recently, there is the case of swimmer Brent Hayden. The week before he competed at the world championships in Melbourne, his grandfather Perry Anderson died of old age in British Columbia.
“I visited him on his death bed before I left for Australia and promised I’d win the gold medal for him,” Hayden recalled in Whistler.
“It was the last thing I thought about as I got up on the blocks and began my swim. I just remembered the promise I made him and didn’t want to let him down. I didn’t care how much it hurt I was going to deliver on my promise to him.”
It ended up that Hayden made good by winning gold in the 100-metre freestyle and was true to his word.
It is a tragic set of circumstances and for Rochette, the timing could not be worse. But she has to know that there is a way to survive this.
She must have faith that she is not alone and that her mother is so very proud of her as she readies for her time on the great stage of the Olympic Games.
– Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.