Skating through tragedy

The run was horrible. The pace was off. My heart rate was off. Nothing felt quite right. By the time my feet stopped moving tears were streaming down my face and the big ugly cry began.

It was a few days after my grandfather had died.

That run was essential. It was hard and ugly and painful and allowed the well of emotions inside of me to come out in a space that felt comfortable and safe and true for me.

But I was merely training to run a half marathon.

Joannie Rochette is trying to win an Olympic medal.

All reports this morning indicate that 24-year-old Canadian figure skater intends to begin the women’s figure skating competition in Vancouver on Tuesday. This after her mother, 55-year-old Therese Rochette, died from a heart attack early Sunday morning.

Rochette practiced on Sunday and her desire to keep competing seems natural. For athletes, their sport is their safety zone, it’s their default position. But how does one find comfort in their sport on this stage, carrying Olympic expectations on her shoulders? Rochette finished fifth in the Turin Olympics and came into Vancouver a strong favorite to medal.

It takes the phrase “mental toughness” to an entirely new level.

The world is waiting to see how Rochette reacts. She will take on the role of sentimental favorite. She will likely have the love and support of a nation, and a skating community, regardless of how she performs.

Rochette’s healing is personal, but her story will impact everyone who has lost someone they love. Should she choose to continue to skate, it will show us how our passion leads us to the exact place we need to be and exactly the right time.

Arriving at starting line is often a triumph in itself. And it’s not a place to be taken for granted.

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