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Rochette enjoying life sans competition (for now)

Canadian Olympic bronze medalist staying busy with show skating

Joannie Rochette strikes a pose at the Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center.
Joannie Rochette strikes a pose at the Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Mickey Brown
(12/15/2011) - Life for Joannie Rochette these days is anything but relaxing.

The 2010 Olympic bronze medalist and 2009 world silver medalist was at the Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center on Thursday, Dec. 15, promoting the Progressive Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular, which took place Oct. 29 in Moline, Ill., and will premiere Jan. 8, 2012, on NBC.

The next day she was scheduled to appear in Celebration on Ice, a unique holiday show that brings Canada's premiere skating stars to those living in rural communities.

When that's done, it's off to Courchevel, France, for a Christmas ice skating gala, and following that, she and her fellow Stars on Ice cast mates are congregating in Lake Placid for a few days for rehearsals, before the tour's Dec. 30 premiere show in the quaint upstate New York village.

It's exhausting just reading through Rochette's travel itinerary, never mind experiencing it, but the petite Montreal native wouldn't want it any other way.

She loves to skate, and she'll do it anywhere, anytime.

But, save for the Japan Open in early October, Rochette's schedule does not include competitions, and that's not likely to change anytime soon.

"I would love to come back, but I love doing shows also. It's a tough decision," Rochette said. "I watched the Grand Prix Final last week, and I wanted to be there ... I guess I will decide in the next year or so for the next Olympics."

Rochette showed she's still got it at this year's event in Saitama, finishing second only to Russian wunderkind Elizaveta Tuktamisheva with a score of 112.74.

"It's good to give a challenge once in a while," Rochette said. "Shows give you a challenge, but it's performance challenge; competition gives you more [of a] technical [challenge]."

No matter the venue, Rochette insists on pushing herself, so the show programs she's preparing for SOI are sure to be crowd pleasers. One is to a song called "Indestructible" by Robyn, and is choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle.

"It's great for skating because it's got a lot of variation in the music, and there's a classical piece," Rochette said. "That's where the footwork is, so I'm going to learn how to footwork like Jeff does."

The other number is choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne and is called "For me, Formidable." It's the story of a French girl who falls in love with an English-speaking man, and how she deals with her frustrations surrounding her inability to fully express her love for him.

"I was afraid of doing a French song in the U.S. that [the audience] wouldn't appreciate as much, but this one is really cool because both English and French speakers can understand," Rochette said. "Shae doesn't speak French fluently and sometimes she will say, "What does that word mean?" and I tell her, and she'd say, "Do something else then." So it's a lot of fun for us to do. It's flirtatious and a bit innocent, too."

Rochette is always willing to try new things, like the skating and gymnastics show she took part in last month. During rehearsals, she took advantage of some of the apparatus the gymnasts were using, like the balance beam ("It was pretty high up.") and the floor surface ("I just did a cartwheel.").

Another recent highlight for her was her appearance in the "Caesars Tribute II: A Salute to the Ladies of the Ice" in Atlantic City, which will air Jan. 1 on NBC. With a cast that included Shizuka Arakawa, Sarah Hughes, Tara Lipinski, Nancy Kerrigan, Irina Slutskaya, Elizabeth Manley and Miki Ando, it was hailed as the greatest gathering of female figure skaters - at least in terms of career medal haul - in history.

"It was an honor to be there," Rochette said. "It was great to meet many of the ladies who inspired me."

As if she doesn't already have enough going on, she also just put out a workout DVD called "Avec Coeur Et Passion," which translates to "With Heart and Passion." The video is only available in French, although she says the English version will go on sale soon, and is divided into three parts: one with exercises aimed at women over 50, one for current athletes and a segment that contains on-ice instruction.

The chiseled body she attained by doing many of exercises contained in her video was on display Thursday. Despite the chilly temperatures and swirling winds, Rochette stripped down to a brightly colored dress -- one that was reminiscent of the kind worn in the old Ice Capades shows -- and put on an entertaining show for the masses gathered between 49th and 50th Streets in Manhattan, performing to Christina Aguilera's "Show Me How You Burlesque."

She said, "It's a special rink. It's beautiful. It's so historic. It's a great experience."

Rochette sympathizes with Asada

The storyline that arose out of the Final that hit closest to home for Rochette was that which related to Mao Asada, who finished one spot ahead of Rochette in Vancouver. While in Quebec City, Asada received word that her mother, 48-year-old Kyoko, who was battling cirrhosis of the liver, did not have much longer to live. She withdrew from the competition and flew back to Japan, but by the time she arrived, Kyoko had already passed.

In an act of courage that touched the hearts of millions of Canadians, and made her one of the "faces" of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Rochette skated to Olympic bronze just days after her own mother, Therese, died of a heart attack.

"Everyone will handle [a situation like that] in their own way," Rochette said. "I sent Mao a message as soon as I heard. I hope she comes back strong at Japanese nationals, if that is what she wants to do. I am sure she has people around her who are helping her."