Just more than two days after learning of her mother's sudden death from a heart attack, Canada's Joannie Rochette took to the ice and turned in the figure skating performance of her life in the short program at the 2010 Olympic Games.
Even for a sport known for emotional performances, it was a deeply touching moment for the crowd. In Vancouver, they are calling the Montreal-area native" Canada's daughter."
Rochette, fighting back tears and with a trembling smile, skated onto the ice with her country and much of the world watching Tuesday night. Her program included a triple lutz, a double toe, and then a triple flip landed.
With her hand over her heart, she received a deafening standing ovation from the crowd, which had remained silent during her performance. Her routine was good enough for a third-place finish, putting her in the running for a medal when the competition concludes with the long program Thursday night.
Rochette's mother, Therese, died of a massive heart attack on Sunday, just a few hours after arriving with her husband in Vancouver to watch her daughter compete.
Norman Rochette found his 55-year-old wife passed out in the apartment where they were to stay during the games. He rushed his wife to Vancouver General Hospital, but it was too late. She was pronounced dead a short time later, so it fell to Norman Rochette to break the news to his daughter.
Joannie Rochette is the couple's only daughter and, as close friend Canadian speed skating medalist Nathalie Lambert said, "her mother was her closest friend, and also her number one fan."
Therese Rochette was the one to shuttle the figure skater back and forth to the rink when she was younger.
"Her mother was traveling here to see her live her Olympic moment," Lambert said.
Once, a younger Joannie Rochette wrote in her diary that "even if it requires quite a big deal of humility at 22 to admit you need more of your mother, I expressed it."
While waiting for her skating score, Rochette spoke a tearful message to her mother in French: "Mom, I would love to have you here."
It turned out to be the best performance of her career -- her highest score ever.
"It was because she earned it," former U.S. gold medalist Peggy Fleming said. "She skated a beautiful program with a lot of heart."
Fans have flooded Rochette's Facebook page. One fan wrote, "Every Canadian mother will be on the edge of their seats for the long program."
As one of the announcers said Tuesday night during Rochette's performance, voice cracking with emotion, "There is no bigger stage than the Olympic Games, but this skate and the moment -- it's much more than a competition."
She's in the running for a medal, but so many people here have said that doesn't matter. She's already earned so much more.