In Their Words is a celebration of the two-year countdown to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. This 17-part series is comprised of personal stories written by Olympians and leaders with a passion for the Games. Visit vancouver2010.com every day from February 12 to 28 for a fresh story of inspiration, triumph and hope.
Those Five Rings by Joannie Rochette
I started figure skating when I was a young child who could barely walk on the ice. From day one I enjoyed sports, but I quickly fell in love with figure skating after my first time on the ice.
In the beginning, competing was my favourite aspect of the sport. I wanted to win, I liked to win. I entered many regional championships despite not being favoured to win: I lacked a certain new jump in my arsenal that was the key to success. However, typically, I would often only land that new jump for the first time during practice the week before. Though I often cut it close, I loved the adrenaline of competition, and liked to perform so much that I landed the tough jumps when it counted the most. It’s that passion for performance that led me to win my first provincial championship at age 11, as a pre-novice.
That same passion for performance led me to win Canadian novice, junior and senior titles. It is that exact same passion that helped me place fifth at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games; I achieved my goal of a top-10 finish. It is my enduring love for performance that pushes me toward 2010.
Speaking of Torino, my discipline of ladies’ free skating was one of the last events held at those Games. I arrived there one week before the Opening Ceremony, so when I started competing with my short program, I had been there for almost three weeks. And for 10 days, I had seen many fellow athletes celebrating the results of their Olympic adventure. I was patiently waiting for my turn to compete, and finally celebrate, too.
You train all your life for Olympic competition, and, in the end, four minutes means everything to you. If you mess up, you have to wait another four years! It is all about delivering at the right time, peaking at the right time. Then, when you’re in front of the noisiest crowd, and all eyes are on you to deliver — it’s important to feel like you gave everything you had.
That is exactly how I felt in Torino. After a ninth-place finish in the short program, I entered the long program with the objective of climbing a bit in the standings. After my name was announced, “Representing Canada, représentant le Canada, Joannie Rochette,” I skated onto the ice to take my starting pose. I saw the rings, those five Olympic rings. I started thinking about where I was, about what was going on. I thought about that little girl who could barely walk on the ice at one time and who was now at the Olympic Winter Games. Then, I woke up. I could not let those emotions take control of the situation.
I ended the night in fifth place, which was amazing! I was “on” that night, the most important night so far in my career. I had the third-best technical score of all the ladies — of all the best ladies competing in figure skating from around the world!
For me, and Canada as a nation, the 2010 Winter Games mean a lot. For many of us, the Games mean pride, accomplishment, challenge and excellence, and hopefully, a fantastic experience highlighted with the very best performances of a generation.