Monday, 22/1/2018 | : : UTC-8
Skate Today

Rochette Battles Phaneuf for Canadian Crown

Joannie Rochette

The battle is on between Canada’s two top ladies, Cynthia Phaneuf (16) and Joannie Rochette (18). Phaneuf and Rochette finished 1-2 at the 2004 Canadian Championships and both made the Grand Prix Final this season, the first time the feat has been accomplished by Canada’s distaff side. Rochette made history again there by taking the bronze medal, the first by a Canadian lady at the Grand Prix Final, while Phaneuf finished sixth. To reach the Final, Phaneuf won the silver at Skate America and won Skate Canada, while Rochette won Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire in France and finished third at the Cup of China behind former World champion Irina Slutskaya and Shizuka Arakawa.

“I had trained well at home so I expected to do well,” Rochette said. “It was hard to do the two events back to back, but I felt more confident after the medal in China. China was very hard. There were some very good ladies there. I was glad to start the season on a high note. Winning in France was unexpected, but great. Without Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen, there’s more room for the rest of us to show our skating and gain more confidence. That’s good for Nationals because the competition will be tough there too. I may try to upgrade my technical content before then, but mainly I want to skate as clean as possible in London. I don’t want to try something too technical that I cannot do cleanly.”

She supports the new judging system. “It’s a good system,” she said. “It’s harder to do programs because you have to pay attention to everything, not just jumps and spins. To get high levels, you have to do all the revolutions and variations. But you can understand your mistakes and make improvements. And you can have personal bests. It’s more like other sports now and people will like it better once they understand it.”

Rochette has more international experience than Phaneuf, which will help as the pressure of the Olympics nears. She finished eighth at the World Championships in 2004, up from 17th in 2003, earning Canada two spots for this season’s Worlds in Moscow. She has also competed thrice at the Four Continents Championships, finishing ninth, eighth and fourth in the last three years. Rochette also won the Bofrost Cup on Ice in Germany in 2003. She is the 2000 Canadian novice ladies gold medallist and the 2001 junior ladies winner. Rochette has been on the podium every year in Canadian seniors with bronze in 2002 and silver the last two years. Rochette’s goals for this year are to win Canadians and improve her performance at Four Continents and Worlds. In the future, she wants to go to 2006 and 2010 Olympics.”

She began skating when she was six years old when her mother took her to the rink. “My father was coaching hockey teams recreatively at the time,” she said. She began taking lessons from Nathalie Riquier at the Berthierville Skating Club, and then worked with Manon Perron. Rochette switched coaches in November and is now working with Josee Normand and Sebastien Britten in Brossard, Quebec. “I started three weeks before China with my new coaches,” she said. “I have ice all the time at the new rink so now I train between two and five hours a day, five days a week, depending on my school schedule. I don’t skate much on the weekend, maybe just for fun in my hometown when I help some of the little kids skate, just as a volunteer coach.” She spends another five hours a week in off ice training, including ballet, which she has taken for the last five years.

David Wilson choreographs all her programs, but Rochette picked out her own music for this season. She is using “Dumsky Trio” by Dvorak for her short program and “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky for the long. So far, she has been using “Paint It Black” for her exhibition program, the same as last season. “I like to skate to different kinds of music, as long as it inspires me,” Rochette said. “I would like to do my own choreography one day, but I don’t feel ready to do so right now. I like to change both programs every year, the long program for sure. Last season, my programs were more classical so I wanted to do something more powerful, more difficult to interpret this year. We had fun playing with bird-like moves for Firebird, but then we had to cut some of my favorite moves to fit in all my jumps.”

Jumps are what Rochette likes most about skating. She landed her first triple jump, a salchow, when she was 12, but noted that “the triple toe is my easiest jump, and the triple lutz is my hardest.” “I’m working on some different things in practice,” Rochette said, “including some other combinations. Now that my lutz has gotten consistent, I can upgrade some other things.” Rochette is using a triple lutz/double toe combination in her short programs and a triple toe/triple toe, triple lutz/double toe and triple flip falling leaf triple salchow in the long.

Rochette is in her second year in CEGEP, studying natural sciences. “I wanted to be a doctor but because skating has taken so much time, now I want to try pharmacy or something else in the health field. It’s hard to get high marks when you’re doing all the training and traveling. Last year I had high marks, but I wasn’t traveling as much. I’m taking four classes now. That’s a good amount of work. Next year I may only take one class because of the Olympics. It may be the only chance I have to go and I don’t want to miss it. I’ll see what I want to do in life after the Olympics. By the time I’m 30, my body won’t be good for competitive skating, but my brain will still be working.”

Sports come naturally to her. “To relax, I like to swim, dive and jump trampoline,” she said. “I love competition in all sports. I just don’t get the opportunity to practice them. Competing brings me mental toughness in life.”

As a serious student, Rochette noted, “I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies because I study a lot. I like going to cinema with friends on weekends. I like romantic comedies, thrillers and horror movies.” She also reads, primarily dramatic novels, and listens to music. She also likes to go shopping in Montreal. Rochette loves to travel. “I really liked China, but I’ve been three times and never seen the Great Wall,” she said. “I also liked St.Gervais, Mont-Blanc and Amsterdam. I want to go to Hawaii and some other sunny places, maybe California. For holidays, she likes to go to the beach.

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