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02/25/2010

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.

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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.

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As quickly as her routine ended so did Joannie Rochette's face.  

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.

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Joannie Rochette, emotional, looks skyward. 

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.

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Rochette is comforted by coachs after her skate. 

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!

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Joannie jumps early in her short program.

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Rochette's preformance placed her in third heading into the free skate.

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Rochette is a seven-time Canadian Champion.   

-srussell@thestar.ca

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My Heart goes out to you Joanne...It's such a very difficult time...I like many others know all too well how very difficult it is to lose someone very close..Tears filled my eyes as I watched you preform,so well indeed...May you find inner peace and strength to carry you though this very sad time....our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family in your time of need....with deep respect....jay

My heart goes out to you and your family on such a difficult time. You inspire us all and no matter what place you end up, you are golden!

Great post and photos. Thank you for an interesting read.

You have touched the world with how brave you are, and how you just didn't say that's it "I just can't skake" and leave the olympics. Your mom must be so proud of you, and your dad, how well they brought you up. You are truly an inspiration to all people, whether young and old. My heart goes out to you and your family, and I know you still have many hard days to come, but know with the courage and strength you have shown, you will get through them, and also know the hearts of many go with you. With deepest sympathy and condolences and of course congratulations on your bronze medal - wear it proudly Joanne, Every Canadian is so proud of you.
Joan

Joannie, we have followed your skating career all these years and have always been rooting for you. Now more than ever we are rooting for you to get you through your pain. We too have experienced a huge loss so we know the pain you are feeling. Annie, we love you and we know from personal experience that you will always love and miss your dear mother but have faith as through time it really does get a little easier. God bless you! Jay B

Be very proud of yourself, but now take time for you and family.
Canada is proud of you.
God Bless

Steve,

Awesome photos but I was especially moved by your commentary as a photographer. Thanks for sharing your feelings. I can only imagine how it must have felt being right there, so far away yet so close through the lens. I could hardly watch Joannie's performance from the comfort of my own home, and was moved to tears at the end of her performance. Keep up the amazing documentation!

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