Canadian Rochette's mom died before competition

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Joannie Rochette, home favorite of the women's figure skating at the ongoing Vancouver Winter Olympics, hit by a family tragedy hours before Sunday's training that her mother unexpectedly passed away.

Skate Canada announced during a press conference at the main press center that Joannie's mom, Therese Rochette, 55, died early in the morning at Vancouver General Hospital after she just arrived Saturday to watch her daughter's competitions.

No detail was released and the Canadian Olympic Committee said the cause of death is unconfirmed.

The 24-year-old Rochette, however, showed up at the Pacific Coliseum Sunday afternoon for training and skated to her short program during the session.

Rochette, six-time Canadian champion, finished the fifth four years ago in the Turin Games and the runner-up in last year's world championships.

Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said she was doing as well as one could expect.

"It has been an emotional rollercoaster for her. She made the decision that she wants to compete and maintain her training schedule. It is providing her with stability in a very uncertain time of her life," he said.

"Competing at the Olympic Games has always been her dream, and her mom always supported that dream. Her mom is very close to her, and a big part of her skating life. It would mean a lot to her mom and to herself," he added.

Rivals to be, who heard of the sad news just before Sunday afternoon's training, also showed respects to Rochette.

"I just heard before practice today. I hope Joannie gets through it and that she can compete," said Kim Yu Na of South Korea, who's dubbed the hot favorite for the women title after winning her country's first ever world championships title.

Kim's Canadian coach Brian Orser said he's shocked at the news. "I can't imagine what Joannie will be going through," he said. "I lost my mother 15 years ago and it's devastating. My thoughts are with her and her family. It's unbelievable."

"I have a lot of respect for her. I didn't expect her to come (to the training). I think I wouldn't be able to do the same thing if I was in her situation," said Switzerland's Sarah Meier, who's in the same practice group as Rochette on Sunday.

Rochette's father Normand, who's an ice hockey coach in Montreal, is with the skater at the athletes village and she intends to compete but will not accept any interviews until after the women's free skating, according to Skate Canada.

The women's short program is scheduled for Tuesday, while the free skating is two days later.

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