Love life, gold medal on Rochette's mind

Canadian champion's love interest is Canadian short track speed skater Francois-Louis Tremblay

Joannie Rochette is one of the skaters slated to perform.
Joannie Rochette is one of the skaters slated to perform. (Getty Images)


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By Laurie Nealin, special to
(05/05/2008) - Joannie Rochette's boyfriend already owns one gold and two silver Olympic medals from the 2002 and 2006 Games. He'll be skating to add more in Vancouver in 2010 in the same Pacific Coliseum where Rochette hopes to make her own Olympic dream come true, albeit on shorter blades.

The four-time Canadian champion's love interest is Canadian short track speed skater Francois-Louis Tremblay, 27. They met at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.

Until an interview with before her Stars on Ice practice session in Winnipeg, Rochette, 22, had never spoken about her paramour with the media -- at least not in English.

"We had a [French] TV interview in Quebec about that," she said, laughing, noting that no one outside of Quebec seems to have heard about the romance.

On Monday night in Victoria, B.C., when Rochette performs in the second-to-last show on her third Stars cross-Canada tour, Temblay will be in the audience. Not surprisingly, he has now taken an interest in figure skating, a sport he knew little about before, and has even tried out skates with picks on the blades.

"He tried a Lutz and he was not bad," Rochette said. "He's starting to like it more because now he understands how we do things. He took me speed skating a couple of times and showed me the trick of how to push with the heel. I go faster, but with figure skates it would just not be very aesthetic.

"When we come home, we don't talk about our sports, we have a separate life outside of [skating]. It's a lot of fun."

Tremblay will also see the last Stars show in Vancouver on Wednesday, before he and Rochette head up the mountain to Whistler for the Canadian Olympic Committee's three-day session for Canada's elite, winter-sport athletes.

"I think what's great is we're both in winter sports, so we have our off-season at the same time. He came to four shows at the beginning of the tour. He can tour a bit with me because he's not in full training mode right now," Rochette said. "It's great we can understand [each other's training demands], and we go to the same events, like the COC Olympic series."

Athletes ranked among the world's best in their respective sports were invited to the weekend session. Rochette's teammates Jeffrey Buttle, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison will also attend to learn more about honing their preparations for the 2010 Olympic Games to be held both in Whistler and Vancouver.

"That, for me, for sure will be a big inspiration when I go back to training in Montreal," Rochette said, noting that Brian Orser and David Pelletier are among the speakers enlisted to motivate the 2010 troops.

While most figure skaters take time off for a holiday in May or June, Rochette said a vacation is not in the cards for her this year. She has a final chemistry exam the day after she returns from the COC summit and, the following week, begins her summer physics course. Rochette has been taking one course per semester; determined to attain her natural sciences certificate, a post-high school requirement in Quebec for anyone wishing to pursue university studies.

Once her fall course in physics is completed, Rochette will finally graduate. Due to the demands on her time as an elite athlete, it has taken five years for her to complete what regular students do in two or three years.

"Once I start something, I want to finish. I commit to it, even though I'm not going to go to university anytime soon. I wanted to do more than just skating," Rochette said.

Rochette will train throughout May back home in Montreal before heading to Toronto in June to develop her new programs and, hopefully, spend some time again working with Kurt Browning on her jumps. Whether David Wilson will choreograph both her routines for the coming season has not yet been decided, nor has music been chosen.

Rochette's long-time coach Manon Perron will accompany her so that when they return to Montreal, Perron can meld what was learned in Toronto into Rochette's long-term training plan.

While Rochette has been on tour, she and Perron have been engaged in a long-distance discussion about potential music selections.

"We look at the competition, what's being done and what we think I should be doing. We think about where I am in my career, that the Olympics are coming in two years, that we're not in experimental mode. We should know what we want by now.

"I'm thinking of my previous programs -- what I liked, when I felt good, good performances I had, and we want to do something close to that," said Rochette, who names the Firebird free skate program with which she won her first Canadian title in 2005 as one of her favorites.

"We are trying to recreate similar moments again," Rochette said, allowing that resurrecting her Firebird program has been discussed.

"For now, we're putting ideas on the list, and we'll decide when I get home. For sure, we want to choose music that is known. I always felt more comfortable with programs that the audience knew the music a little bit, but not too, too known because they've been used a lot."

Last month, when asked about the Canadian team's prospects come 2010, Browning suggested Rochette would "need to step it up" to land on the podium in Vancouver. She understands what he meant.

"When I got on the world scene, the standard was to do a triple Lutz, and there was no triple-triples [jump combinations]. In my mind, I didn't think I have to work towards that but just to do the triple Lutz and improve my program, my second mark," she said. "In 2006, a whole new generation has arrived, and the kids are really strong. To keep my place there I need to step it up too. I want to do the triple-triple but also achieve cleaner skates.

"Last year, my programs had at least five or six triples. Every time I compete I have to know I can do that, and if I add a triple-triple to that, it could be enough," Rochette said, referring to landing on the world and Olympic podiums.

"This year was definitely better, but I know I can do much more. There's lots of places to improve, but to be fifth at worlds, it's been a long, long time in Canada for any [woman] to be in the top five. I was happy I could achieve that. It was my goal to be top five.

"Of course, being so close to the podium and not being on it, there is a saying we have in French, 'It was so good, but I'm hungry for more.'"