Olympic bronze medalist Joannie Rochette withdraws from world championships

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bronze medalist Rochette out of worlds

OTTAWA — The toll from skating at the Winter Olympics days after her mother’s death finally has worn down bronze medalist Joannie Rochette.

The Canadian champion withdrew Monday from next week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Turin, Italy.

“With everything that has happened over the past few weeks, I have missed a significant amount of training time,” Rochette said in a statement. “That means I’m not prepared either emotionally or physically to skate well at these championships and once again challenge for the podium.

“Whenever I compete I want to give my best to the fans, and to respect the competitive nature of the sport. I just would not be able to do that for either the fans or myself next week.”

Rochette, who won her bronze in Vancouver four days after her 55-year-old mother, Therese, died of a heart attack, will be replaced by Myriane Samson. The 24-year-old Rochette won the silver medal at last year’s worlds.

Rochette’s inspirational performance at the Olympics placed her third behind South Korea’s Kim Yu-na and Japan’s Mao Asada. She then carried the Canadian flag at the closing ceremony.

“I also want to thank everyone in both Canada and around the world who have been so supportive of me,” she said. “There has been so much kindness shown to me and to my family. I want you all to know that your words of encouragement have truly helped me to get through this very difficult time.”

Rochette planned to skate an exhibition program in tribute to her mother on Friday night as part of “Thin Ice,” a made-for-TV show to be broadcast live by ABC. But the event does not have ISU sanctioning and Rochette has not received approval to perform.

The ISU cites a rule requiring prior approval from the skater’s national federation.

“There is an ISU regulation in place to protect the integrity of ISU championships, which does not allow skaters to perform exhibitions where they have chosen to withdraw from an ISU event that conflicts or is in close proximity to the ISU event,” Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said Monday. “ISU championships provide direct benefit to the skaters through television exposure and prize money. In this particular case, although it’s a very worthwhile exception, with Joannie withdrawing from the world championships, we cannot issue the clearance for her to skate, without the ISU waiving its regulation.”

David Baden, Rochette’s agent, said the ISU did not have an accurate description of Rochette’s involvement in “Thin Ice.”

“They were under the impression she would be part of the competition, but she is not,” Baden said. “Once the competition is over, she would skate her exhibition to kind of close the show.”

Rochette skated to Celine Dion’s “Vole” at the gala following the Vancouver Games — Dion’s song is in memory of her niece who died of cystic fibrosis and Dion was a favorite of Rochette’s mother. Baden said plans were made for Dion to provide a recording wishing the skater good luck that would be played before she skates on Friday.

“The situation is very upsetting to Joannie,” Baden said. “She was invited to do an exhibition number to honor her mother at ‘Thin Ice’ and she was excited to do this. The necessary paperwork was sent to her federation for permission.

“We’re just trying to appeal to people’s hearts here. We want to work within the rules and respect the guidelines set out by the ISU and the federations. But we are hoping everyone will do the right thing.”

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