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Rochette returns to Olympic dream after nightmare

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A few hours after learning of her mother's sudden death, Canadian figure skating star Joannie Rochette was back on the ice.

Dressed in black tights and a black Canadian team hoodie, Rochette appeared in the runway as the rest of the skaters in her practice session took the ice Sunday afternoon. She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath before stepping on the ice, then gave a little wave to her father, the only spectator who was allowed in the building - cleared about 45 minutes earlier for the security sweep before the original dance.

Therese Rochette, 55, had a massive heart attack after arriving in Vancouver on Saturday, said David Baden, Rochette's agent. She was taken to a Vancouver hospital, where she was pronounced dead early Sunday, Skate Canada said.

"She's so close to her mother, I think she doesn't even entertain not skating," Baden said. "She's a tough fighter. It's got to be hard to switch gears and say no to [the Olympics]. This is what she has been training for all these years. She'll be trying to fulfill the goal they had together."

Rochette will not talk until after competing, Skate Canada president Benoit Lavoie said. The women's event begins Tuesday with the short program.

"She's going to get through this," Canadian teammate Cynthia Phaneuf said. "She is just so strong. By being here and being able to compete after that happened, I'm just very impressed. I think she's doing the right thing. She won't get any stronger in her room."

Rochette was blinking hard her first few laps around the ice, but then seemed to settle into the comfort of her practice routine. She showed no lapses in concentration, jumped well and did a light run-through of her tango short program. She was applauded by the few people in the rink after her program and again when she left the ice.

"That's really hard," U.S. champion Rachael Flatt said. "I can't imagine losing your mother, let alone at the Olympics."

Jeff Buttle, the 2006 Olympic bronze medalist said he was "shocked and saddened" when he learned the news.

Joannie Rochette has been in Vancouver since the opening ceremony, and her parents arrived Saturday from Montreal.

With AP writer Barry Wilner

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