Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Sylvie Frechette — whose fiancee died by suicide just days before she traveled to the 1992 Barcelona Games — is among those playing a central role in supporting Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette as Joannie prepares to compete tonight in Vancouver in spite of her mother’s heart attack and death on Sunday. Sylvie is serving as a mentor to the Canadian Olympic team, so her experience with grief has drawn the two women together as Joannie grapples with the news of her mother’s loss yet carries on with her determined preparations to skate in the Olympics.
In “Frechette Aches for Rochette” in the Toronto Sun, QMI Agency reporter Steve Simmons tells the story:
[Frechette said,] “When I heard about what happened, it brought back so many emotions for me this morning. It’s hard to explain. I saw her. I held her in my arms and I whispered ‘If you need anything, just let me know. I’m here.’”
It is 18 years later, and her voice still cracks as she speaks of the pain, the emotional confusion, and the competitive instinct that’s inside all world-class athletes. Rochette, through the Canadian Olympic team, has indicated she will not go home. She will compete here.
“You have to understand what this is like,” said Frechette. “You are [at] the athletic peak of your career. This is the biggest event of your life. And personally, you are having the worst day of your life.”
“I want to tell her that whatever decision she takes, there is no wrong here. She has to do what is right for herself. It can’t come from her coach, her friends, her teammates. She has to put herself where she needs to be. I can tell her that from experience. I don’t want her to think about what others say. You can’t get caught up in all that.”
For more on the story, see “Rochette in Mourning” by Dan Barnes in yesterday’s Montreal Gazzette.
[The abridged URL for this post is http://tinyurl.com/OlympicSurvivor .]
[Update: Here’s a story about Joannie’s performance on Tuesday night. And reporter Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News completes the coverage with “Bronze Winner Joannie Rochette a Remarkable Story in Figure Skating.”]