Olympian and Sochi commentator Joannie Rochette on finding her strength and the surprising Olympic Village party scene

Montreal-based figure skater Joannie Rochette won a bronze medal, and hearts worldwide at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

This year she’s trading her spot on the podium for a place rink-side among the media as a commentator with CBC’s French-language network Radio-Canada.

Before leaving for Sochi, Joannie was busy spreading the word about the athletes who benefit from Molson’s Fund a Champion program, as well as their festive new Victory bottles.

The former Olympian – who now tours the world with Stars on Ice – even took time out to stop by Hello! Canada for a candid chat about life on and off the ice.

Will the Winter Games in Sochi be your first experience as a sports commentator?
Yeah, for the very first time I will be with Radio-Canada. It will be great and funny at the same time to be commentating on my colleagues. I think I will get nervous for them, but at the same time my role will be to be honest with the fans watching and to really describe what just happened. It’s really different. I’m just really excited for the opportunity to be in Sochi.

Do you remember why your parents encouraged you to skate as a young girl?
I was an only child. My mother wanted me to meet other kids before I started school. My parents would go ice-fishing in the winter, so I would go with them. I found it a little boring so my father bought me a pair of skates to skate around the holes. That’s how it all started. It wasn’t to get an Olympic medal one day, it was just for fun and an activity that we could do as a family.

When you lost your mom to a heart attack just days before you had to compete at the 2010 Games, people instantly felt for you and the decision you needed to make. Was there any ever doubt that you would compete?
Yes, I doubted. I wanted to do it, that’s for sure, but I didn’t know if I could – I didn’t know how. I was really supported by the Olympic committee, my father, friends of the family came and they allowed my boyfriend to come into the village with me to help me pack my suitcase to go to the rink, to make sure I had everything I needed. It’s because of that team that I was able to skate.

How challenging was it for you to share such a personal time with the public?
I struggled when I came home because I wasn’t such a public person, I wasn’t used to that. I didn’t expect to be recognized when I got my groceries. But life went on quickly because I kept doing shows.

You became a world famous example of what it means to be poised and courageous. Did you know you had that in you?
Figure skaters are tougher than we look on the ice. We always have the pretty dress, the makeup, the hair, but when we train at home we fall all the time, we have no protection. It’s not the way it looks on TV! [Laughs] We’re even tougher sometimes, I think, than hockey players because they’re on the ice as a team and if they fall, no one really looks at them, but if we fall, everyone looks at you.

What’s the greatest lesson you took from that experience?
Falling at a big competition is very tough mentally to keep going so I think that’s what the sport teaches you. Even at home, if I was training my Olympic routine, my coach would never allow me to stop and start over again because you have to learn to get over a mistake and keep going. I think that’s what I did in Vancouver, I just kept going further. My mother passed away, but the good thing was that I had such good people around me. I still think about it and I’m almost mad at her because I wanted her to be there so badly. She shared so much in my career and it was because of her that I was the skater I was and it was a bit of her dream, too. I was just so sad and mad that she couldn’t be there to see it.

What’s one thing that might surprise our readers about what it’s like to live in the Olympic Village?
How many parties go on the whole time! You sacrifice so much just for that moment, so whether the outcome is good or bad, the athletes just want to celebrate, have fun and enjoy the games. Competition is going on for three weeks and some are finished the very first day so they spend three weeks partying. At my first Games, my event was at the very end and I would go to my practice at 6 a.m. and see the other athletes coming back from partying in town. Every year there are always stories about how the athletes party – it’s true!

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