Skating with Joannie Rochette
Steve Russell/Staff Photographer
I've covered a lot of stories that have put me right up front with people going through the best times of their lives and a lot of stories with people who are going through the worst times of their lives, tough emotional times.
While, I knew Joannie Rochette's skate would be a tough emotional skate for her, it wasn't what I was expecting for me. When I was assigned to the Women's Figure Skating free program, I knew that the only story of the day was how Joannie would cope performing on the biggest stage in her sport after the biggest personal loss a person could experience.
I thought that my photo position (high up) and my equipment, a 300mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter on it would insulate me from the emotion that is out there.
Once the skate started, I knew that I was wrong, it magnified it.
It shouldn't be a surprise, it magnifies what I'm looking at, brings me closer, helps me see her eyes and that was what I was looking at, hoping to see something that I could capture to bring across the depth of her loss.
I saw it a few times.
But it hit me hard when it it hit her hard.
At the end of the routine, she finished with a smile. It quickly changed to reflect the pain of her loss.
All the emotion she skated through and maybe with came out in the very end.
As the crowd roared it support and as Joannie skated around thanking them for it on the verge, I noticed that I was shaky, my vision felt like it was going.
I had to compose myself, still shooting, I took a couple deep breaths.
When all was over and we put down our cameras in the photo area, a few commented on how much that affected them, how hard it was to shoot.
We all picked it up, photographers, writers, volunteers and the fans.
Everyone has lost someone and everyone knows how much it feels.
Everyone could identify with her.
In fact, it must have been really hard to be the four skaters that had to follow her.
These women spend a lot of time together. Many share the same coaches and training venues.
For those skaters to be warming up and feeling the building rock as the crowd helped Joannie through each jump and spin, it must have been hard for them to shut out the emotions as well.
I'll be covering the final tonight. While I am a little more prepared for the emotion I do not know if will have any less effect on me.
Skate! Joannie! Skate!