Joannie Rochette Emerges as Contender for Olympic Gold

/Reuters-Newsis /Reuters-Newsis

Figure skater Kim Yu-na may have another tough rival to watch out for in her quest for the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics next month. Joannie Rochette won her sixth Canadian national title in a row last weekend with a total score of 208.23 points, although it will not be recognized by the International Skating Union as the organization does not administer the Canadian event. Kim and Japan's Mao Asada are the only female figure skaters with official ISU scores of over 200 points.

Rochette established herself as a force to be reckoned with last weekend and set a new Canadian record. She fell once on the first jumping pass in the short program, but she was flawless in the free skate, nailing all seven triple jumps. The height and speed of her jumps and use of edges were all faultless.

Despite her triumph, Rochette is trying to keep her mind off the Olympic gold medal right now. "I'm not putting on myself any expectation of winning the gold," she told Canadian press. "Yes, I think if I do a program like this it's possible I can win but I don't want to think about the end result. This is a sport where, the moment you start thinking, you miss." She also said she could have skated better in the nationals by being more expressive, calling her performance a little bit "robotic."

Although Rochette made it to the podium in two Grand Prix events this season, her overall performance was a little shaky. In the Grand Prix Final in Tokyo last month she finished fifth out of six competitors, far short of her silver medal performances at the Four Continents Championships and the World Championships last season. After the Grand Prix Final she returned to Canada to rebuild her program and confidence. Now the skating world, including her competitors, are waiting to see if Rochette, who finished fifth in the 2006 Torino Olympics, can carry this momentum to Vancouver next month.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 19, 2010 11:12 KST