VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- After the brilliance of the short program, it was hard to imagine there wouldn't be a letdown. How could South Korea's Kim Yu-Na be perfect a second night in the face of the suffocating pressure of expectations? How could Japan's Mao Asada skate mistake-free again and push Kim with her amazing arsenal of triple axels. And, most poignantly, how could Canada's Joannie Rochette keep herself together in the free skating program just four days after her mother's sudden death after arriving in Vancouver to watch her compete?
Things were good for Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette in the weeks before the Winter Olympics. She had a 2009 world silver medal. Training was going well. And, she told her agent, she had her confidante and source of strength by her side.
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Gold to Kim Yu-na of South Korea, silver to Mao Asada of Japan, and a bronze for the ages to Canada's Joannie Rochette. That is E.M. Swift's prediction for the Ladies' figure skating title, the showcase event on a day which also features medals handed out in men's aerials, women's cross-country, Nordic combined, women's hockey and women's giant slalom.
The battle belonged to Korea's exquisite Kim Yu-na and Japan's sensational Mao Asada, who are the two best women skaters of their time. But the night belonged to Canada's courageous and heartrending Joannie Rochette, who was competing just two days after her mother, Therese, died of an apparent heart attack early Sunday morning shortly after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter skate.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Question: Will American audiences tune in to a ladies figure skating competition in which an American is not in the hunt for the gold medal? Maybe not even make an appearance on the podium? It hasn't happened since 1964, but we may find out in the next few days, for this Olympic gold will be decided between a couple of longtime Asian rivals: South Korea and Japan.