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Thursday, March 4, 2010
Rochette happy to celebrate mother

Associated Press

BERTHIERVILLE, Quebec -- Joannie Rochette placed her Olympic medal on her mother's casket and bid farewell Thursday to the woman she called her best friend.

Rochette momentarily set her figure skating bronze on the coffin during the funeral for Therese Guevremont-Rochette.

Rochette, who melted hearts around the world last week by delivering the medal-winning performance in Vancouver amid her grief, struggled through the painful final step of saying goodbye to her mother.

Rochette's voice quivered and her eyes filled with tears as she paused several times to keep her composure while delivering a eulogy.

She focused on the positive things her mom accomplished in life, rather than the pain caused by her sudden death.

"I'm happy today because we're celebrating the life of my mother Therese -- a short life but an intense one," Rochette said.

"She taught me how to be brave. ... She was always there for me."

Hundreds of people packed a small-town church to pay their final respects to Guevremont-Rochette, who died of a massive heart attack at age 55 shortly after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter compete.

Joannie Rochette, 24, skated the short program just three days after the death and then clinched the bronze medal two nights later.

She was chosen to carry the Canadian flag at the Olympics' closing ceremonies.

Clad in black Thursday, she sat next to her father and her boyfriend, tilting her head downward several times while fighting back tears.

The presiding priest, Jean-Marc Pepin, described her mother as someone "who loved people, who had a sense of humor, and who had character -- just like her daughter."

After the ceremony, Rochette put on dark sunglasses and followed her mother's coffin out the church door.