By Mike Foster
Olympic figure skating medallist Joannie Rochette spoke candidly to students last Thursday about winning a bronze medal at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver just days after her mother, Thérèse, died of a heart attack.
Showing video footage of her 2010 performance to hundreds of students at the Social Sciences Building, Rochette said she remembers her legs trembling beforehand, but has no recollection of the skate.
“It was like being on automatic,” said Rochette. “It was surreal.”
In her inspiring talk, which was a main attraction at uOttawa’s 2016 Snow Festival, Rochette spoke about the importance of setting objectives.
At age eight, she watched the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer and was inspired by Oksana Baiul, of Ukraine, who won a gold medal in the women’s singles.
She recalled going to school and drawing Olympic podiums in her notebooks. But it was her desire to get a coveted Quebec skating team jacket that gave her a life lesson in how to set clear goals in order to succeed.
“That was the first realistic goal I gave myself. I knew that out of 350 girls (in national-level figure-skating contests) I had to be in the best eight to get that jacket,” said Rochette.
To make it happen, she knew she had to improve her performance. Against the advice of her coach, she set her sights on practising a double axel. Her parents got her extra ice time, with her mum videotaping her axel in slow motion to help her to correct and perfect it. She mastered the move and won first place, earning the jacket.
“It was a coat that I couldn’t buy anywhere. I used to sleep in it,” said Rochette, adding that the story became her “recipe” for success. “When I think of that coat I think of all the other times that I thought it would be too difficult.”
Rochette also spoke of that terrible night in Vancouver when she was told her mother had died. She said she was shocked and didn’t know if she could skate. But once she got on the ice for a warm up, her training over the past 20 years and competitive nature took over, especially when another skater performed a triple axel right in front of her.
After the talk, around 100 students joined Rochette for a skate at the Minto Sports Complex.
Laura Hernandez, a first-year student in environmental economics and public policy, was thrilled to meet one of her idols. Originally from Colombia, Hernandez says she was inspired to continue figure skating here in Canada after watching Rochette win the Olympic bronze medal. Hernandez said she re-focused on her figure-skating and achieved her goal of reaching triple gold level with Skate Canada at the Markham Skate Club.