VANCOUVER -- Joannie Rochette was welcomed by a wave from her boyfriend, her father and five family friends when she stepped on the ice at the Pacific Coliseum.
In the wake of her mother Therese's death due to a massive heart attack, and on the eve of the biggest competition of her life, a perceptibly more lighthearted mood greeted the Canadian figure skater at practice Monday.
The 24-year-old from Ile-Dupas, Que., who has found lightness on the ice in these dark days, had another superb practice, showing the strength in her skating that's made her a medal contender for the Vancouver Olympics.
Rochette and her coach Manon Perron issued a statement after the practice, thanking Canadians for their support.
"We have received so many emails and texts, and we wanted people to know that we read everything that you are sending. We also want everyone to know that these messages are helping us to get through this. We are going to do it with Therese. Even though we aren't able to respond to everyone, please keep them coming for both of us."
The pair said they would not be doing interviews until after the event "because we want to keep the energy and focus for the competition."
The reigning world silver medallist and six-time Canadian champion performed her short program, a sassy and sultry tango to "La Cumpersita" that requires some flirtatious glances at the cameras and judges.
Her father Normand watched from the stands in his red Canadian team jacket, periodically wiping his eyes. Her boyfriend -- pairs figure skater Guillaume Gfeller -- was there, along with five family friends.
Rochette skated with poise, showing no hesitation in her jumps. She floated through a seemingly effortless combination of triple Lutz-double toe-double loop.
Her longtime coach Manon Perron kept the mood light with her persistent smile and constant encouragement.
"I think Joannie is showing us a level of readiness that is required at this stage, before the short program," Lavoie said.
The women's short program is scheduled for Tuesday evening.
-- The Canadian Press