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It was watching Canada’s Joannie Rochette, win the Bronze medal in women’s skating in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Actually, it wasn’t just that she won the Bronze; it was that she did this less than a week after her mother’s sudden death.
Joannie was an only child. Her mother was her biggest fan and her closest friend. She could have crumbled. She should have fallen apart. Most people would have. Even elite athletes lose focus and self-destruct from time to time like Dan Jansen did in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary when he was heavily favoured to win Gold and tripped during the 500m speed skating race; earlier that day his sister Jane Beres died from leukaemia. No one blamed Dan for his failure to deliver his best when it mattered most. How could he have? The Olympics are just a game and his sister’s death was the tragic loss of someone he dearly loved. In a recent interview, Dan acknowledged that it was not until years later that he realized how much his sister’s death had impacted his ability to focus that day. A focus he regained eight years later when he won the Gold medal in the 1000 metres men’s speed skating at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
For Joannie, no one would have blamed her if she was unable to deliver her best over the past few days in Vancouver. She could have under-performed and been completely justified in doing so. But she didn’t. She focused. And she did it under extreme personal stress while competing against a group of skaters that could arguably be considered the greatest talents women’s ice skating has ever seen in Olympic competition at one time. Japan’s Mao Asada, who was the Silver medal winner and the first women in Olympic competition to do a triple axel in her routine. Except Mao didn’t just do one; she did two of them. And, of course Korea’s “ice queen,” Kim Yu-Na took the gold while setting a new world record score of 150.06.
What does it take to be a champion?
Effort? Yes. Talent? Of course Desire? Yes Passion? Yes
But most of all, as Joannie showed us, it takes mental toughness.
Congratulations Joannie for showing us what winning Gold looks like even when you take home the Bronze.