In the Olympics it is hard enough to compete knowing that the weight of you nation is on your shoulders. But for Joannie Rochette of Canada she bore an unimaginable burden. The six time Canadian national champion figure skater was preparing for the upcoming events with her mother by her side, as always. But on Sunday, shortly after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter compete, 55 year old Therese Rochette died suddenly of a massive heart attack.
This is not the first time that tragedy has struck before an athlete took to the world stage in fulfillment of a lifetime’s worth of training with parents, family, friends and countrymen by their side. One recalls the plight of American speed skater Dan Jansen in the 1988 Calgary Olympics whose sister Jane lost her battle with Leukemia on the morning of one of the biggest races in his career. Jansen skated in his scheduled events as his sister had wished from her hospital bed and fell down twice; knocking him out of the gold. Six years later Jansen won gold as he had promised his sister Jane before she died. Jansen proceeded to take a victory lap with his 2 year old daughter in his arms. Her name, Jane.
Joannie Rochette might be too young to remember Jansen’s ordeal but she has the heart of an Olympian. Fighting back tears as the crowd cheered her on Joannie skated her heart out and scored a personal best in the short program. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
Too often we concentrate on the negative influences in a world filled with weasels.
Whether or not Joannie leaves Vancouver with an Olympic medal she is the best of the best. A true champion. Her’s is a story of character, style and courage; all traits that can be passed on to all that know her story and can learn from her example.
Joannie Rochette and Dan Jansen remind us that role models are everywhere, some living in obscurity and others right under our eyes. It is through their example that we can realize the hope of human perseverance.
Go Joannie! You are in our heats and minds in your time of need. You competed for your country at a time when you needed them more than they needed you. To your nation and others you are a true hero. One whose character exemplifies the very essence of a true champion. We celebrate your greatness and honor your courage. The world needs more people like you. You did your mother proud.