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Rochette enjoys first year away from competition

Olympic bronze medalist busier than ever

Joannie Rochette admits to missing competition sometimes but loves skating in shows.
Joannie Rochette admits to missing competition sometimes but loves skating in shows. (courtesy of IMG)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(05/12/2011) - Sears Stars on Ice wraps up its tour across Canada tomorrow night in Vancouver, B.C., but six-time Canadian ladies champion, world and Olympic medalist Joannie Rochette will have little time to rest. She'll head home to Montreal for a day and then take a trip to Honduras with World Vision Canada.

This is Rochette's second trip with World Vision. She previously visited Peru in 2009.

"I've traveled a lot in my life, but never this way," says Rochette, 25. "To see those kinds of programs and what they do with the kids is really eye opening."

World Vision goes into underdeveloped areas and educates residents how to become more independent. They teach children and adults to read. Rather than just giving them food, they teach them how to make the most of the land and conserve it better for agriculture.

"They really want to make a difference in the long-term. When they leave, their impact will still be noticeable," Rochette says.

World Vision is the official charity of Sears Stars on Ice. At intermission each show, Jeffrey Buttle gets on the microphone to tell the audience a bit about it. Rochette says maybe next year she'll join him and share her experiences. Since the 2009 trip to Peru, she's been sponsoring a child.

"The mother is sending me her drawings, pictures and things like this," says Rochette, who says families attending Sears Stars on Ice learn how they can engage their kids in international outreach. "It's such a great experience. You learn so much about the world."

Much of Rochette's year has been spent on the road. For the first time, she did the full U.S. Smucker's Stars on Ice tour.

"Doing the U.S. tour was like a geography class for me," she says. Many of the cities were new to her, but thankfully her castmates were mostly familiar faces. "I met Katia Gordeeva for the first time. That was great. She's such a strong lady. Her skating gets more beautiful as she gets older. It was great to skate with her."

Being part of the U.S. rehearsals, which lasted about 12 days in Lake Placid before the show opened, was interesting.

"It was cool to see the whole creative process, how things change to make the final cut of the show," Rochette says.

Rochette admits touring Canada feels especially good because "I feel at home wherever I am in Canada," she says. "It's great to do those cities. It's my sixth year now full-time with the tour. It's got a different energy with old friends.

"When I would compete, coming to the tour was so great because it was celebrating my whole season," she adds. "It was almost like a vacation for me because I could just skate for the crowd, no judges. Even though I didn't compete this year, I still feel like that."

While the pressure is less, there has been little downtime.

"I wanted to do all the opportunities, to accept everything that was coming my way and keep the door open [to compete in the future]," she says. "I wouldn't have been able to do all that I've done if I was competing.

"Since I [was] a kid I've been competing. I'm a very competitive person. I love it. But I've done so many years of competition I wanted to try something else and be able to just enjoy my skating. Skating for the fun of it and not necessarily to count the revolutions in my spins."

Although she's been touring with Kurt Browning for several years, it's still great fun to work with him.

"I think Kurt is the big kid in the family," Rochette says. "He's been doing this tour for so long, but he still gets excited before every show. He's still so happy to be out there performing for the crowd. It's great to be able to learn from him. He loves to spread his experience to all the skaters."

She admits to missing the competitive atmosphere when she watched the Canadian Championships on television. It even felt a little weird during the Christmas holidays that she didn't have to worry about celebrating too much.

After Rochette returns from Honduras she's got a couple of projects lined up in Montreal. First, she'll be acting in a stage play on June 7 and 8, which a fundraiser for the theater. Then she'll be a guest on a food show where they'll check out some local restaurants. She'll also continue to accept speaking engagements in both French and English. Then it's off to Korea in July to do some skating shows.

"This year has been a lot of travel," says Rochette. "I was busier. When I'm training, I don't accept so many events. I stay at home focused on my own thing. So I wouldn't say downtime, but definitely less pressure."