Mother of star Canadian figure skater dies 

The mother of Canadian figure skating star Joannie Rochette died Sunday, two days before Rochette is to begin competition.

Therese Rochette, 55, died Sunday at a hospital in Vancouver, Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie said. No cause of death was announced. Rochette still plans to compete, Lavoie said, and was at the Olympic village with her father, Normand, who broke the news to his daughter early Sunday.

Joannie Rochette has been in Vancouver since the opening ceremony, and her parents arrived Saturday from their home in Montreal. The women's short program is Tuesday, and the final Thursday.

Rochette has two practices scheduled Sunday, but Lavoie said she won't talk until the competition is complete. Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada's high performance director, said the rest of the Canadian skating team was told the news before it was announced publicly.

"We'll do our best to manage it, but our first thoughts are with Jo and her family," Slipchuk said. "We'll go step by step."

The Canadians' practice session isn't until early Sunday afternoon, but news of Rochette's mother's death spread quickly at the Pacific Coliseum.

"I can't even imagine what she's going through," said Frank Carroll, who coaches Mirai Nagasu and men's gold medalist Evan Lysacek, both of the United States. "It takes such strength to get out there and control your emotions just under normal circumstances. ... It's horrible. Horrible."

As the reigning world silver medalist, Rochette is Canada's best chance to win an Olympic medal since Liz Manley won the silver in 1988, the last time the games were in Canada.

"A medal would mean so much to me," the six-time Canadian champion said earlier this week. "But I'm trying not to think too much because I want to be happy in my performance and happy in my career. I don't want to define my life by what happened here."

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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