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Rochette's mother dies of heart attack in Vancouver

Canadian skater still plans to compete
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Canadian officials confirmed that Joannie Rochette still plans to compete at the 2010 Winter Games after the sudden death of her mother Therese in Vancouver on Saturday night. -Getty Images

Tragedy has struck again in Vancouver as the mother of Canadian world silver medalist Joannie Rochette died last night of a heart attack, officials from Skate Canada announced this morning in Vancouver.

Therese Rochette, 55, died in Vancouver Hospital last night.

But Rochette still plans to compete in the women's event, which begins Tuesday with the short program. The women's final is Thursday. Rochette's father, Normand, informed his daughter of the news this morning when he visited her and Rochette's longtime coach Manon Perron in the Olympic Village, according to officials from Skate Canada.

"We are all shocked and saddened to learn this morning that Joannie's mother passed away shortly after her arrival in Vancouver," said 2008 World Champion Jeffrey Buttle in a statement released by IMG Sports. "Joannie is a strong person and I am there to help and support her in any way possible. The best thing we can do for her is to respect her privacy at this time."

Unfortunately, this was not the first tragic story of these Olympics in Vancouver. A pall was cast over these Games from the very beginning when a luge competitor from the republic of Georgia was killed during a training run on the same day as the Opening Ceremony.

Rochette, who was born in Ile Dupas, Quebec, and trains in Montreal, had come to Vancouver as Canada's top medal hope in the women's figure skating competition at these Winter Games. The 24-year-old had struggled through an inconsistent season but at Canadian nationals last month, she sent a loud message to the rest of the world with a confident free skate and claimed her sixth national title.

She had placed fifth at the 2006 Olympics in Torino and had been hoping for a spot on the medal podium this time, when she would be competing in her home country.

The news of Rochette's mother's death spread quickly at the Pacific Coliseum, where Rochette was supposed to practice later today.

"That's just horrible news,'' said U.S. Olympic silver medalist Tanith Belbin, after she and partner Ben Agosto finished their dance practice. "She's such a sweet girl.''

Belbin's eyes began to well up with tears and she added, "Oh my gosh. It just feels like Angela Nikodinov at nationals all over again.''

Nikodinov's mother was killed in an auto accident during the 2005 U.S. Championships in Portland, Ore., Nikodinov did not compete in those nationals.

Tragedy also struck in the skating world at the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, when Carlo Fassi, the coach of Olympic champions Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill, died of a heart attack.

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