The world looks different to Joanne Rochette these days.
And she looks different to the world, at least that part of it which pays attention to figure skating.
"I had a competition (the World Team event) to prepare for and two new programs for next year to make, so I couldn't spend too much time congratulating myself," Rochette says of her world championship silver medal. "Now it's finally starting to sink in."
Rochette enters the Olympic season carrying the pressure of being a bona fide medal hope for Vancouver 2010, which is a lot more positive than the triple pressures she used to carry: the pressure of rarely stringing together two good programs in the same week; the load of having to be the spokeswoman for the perpetually depressed state of Canadian women's skating; and the lonely weight of indifference, with which most skating pundits viewed her prospects.
The native of tiny Ile Dupas, Quebec, launched herself squarely into the Olympic mix with an inspiring, steady world championship. That ratified both her own status and that of her nation. It was the first world medal in the women's event for Canada in 21 years and just the second in 36. In fact, Rochette is just one of seven Canadians to win a world medal in women's singles since Canada began attending the Worlds 81 years ago.
At the start of the season, and coming off last year's career-high fifth place, Rochette said she was aiming for the podium.
"And not many people believed I would do it," she acknowledged during a break from Stars on Ice, which makes its annual stop at Copps Coliseum a week from tonight. "I didn't believe it myself until this year."
Rochette began the season with great confidence, winning both her Grand Prix stops, and was fourth in the Grand Prix Final, leading to mild speculation she could medal at Worlds. But there were magnificent, technically dazzling Asian teens Yu-Na Kim, Mao Asada and Miki Ando in her path, and graceful Italian Carolina Kostner, defending silver medallist, was also podium material.
Rochette beat them all but Kim, who set a world points record.
At 23, Rochette is a year older than Kostner and half a decade senior to Kim, Asada and Ando. But maturity has added late-blooming confidence, consistency and adult gracefulness to what was already a powerful, and quick, skills set.