Who watched Canadian Joannie Rochette skate her short program last night at the Olympics? I did, and I admit, it made me tear up.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Rochette is a Canadian figure skater who lost her mother unexpectedly to a heart attack less than 48 hours before skating last night. In a situation where most people would have been too overwhelmed with grief to even compete, Rochette stayed true to the dream she and her mother shared. She took to the ice and turned in the performance of her life. She earned a personal best score and is in third place going into the long program.
As she skated, the cameras showed her father in the stands, tears in his eyes. As she finished her program, the crowd rose to their feet as Rochette bent over, tears splashing onto the ice. It was a moment that, to me, encapsulated the spirit of the Olympics: Athletes defying the odds and doing their best, inspired by — and inspiring to — the people who worked and sacrificed alongside them to put them in that moment of potential glory.
Kim Yuna of Korea was near perfect in a dazzling routine and has a huge lead going into the long program. Mao Asada landed a triple axle (!) and was nearly as perfect as Kim. She is in second place at the moment. Both deserved their scores and both deserve their places in the standings.
But it was Rochette who won people’s hearts last night and who I will remember long after the 2010 Olympics are over. Because sometimes, technical perfection isn’t as important as effort and emotion. (Read more about it here.)