If anyone needed a strong skate leading up to the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver it was Joannie Rochette.
The world silver medalist from Canada had struggled all season long in this, the most important season of her career. She did not have two clean programs in any of her international events this season. Although she won the title at Skate Canada, she mustered just four triples in her free skate. She placed third at Cup of China (following a fifth-place showing in the short program) and was fifth in the ISU's Grand Prix Final.
At the national championships last month, Rochette, who was seeking her sixth Canadian title, fell on a triple Lutz and found herself second to Cynthia Phaneuf in the short program.
When it came time for the free skate, she was determined to send a message.
It came through loud and clear.
Rochette landed seven triples in her free skate program to "Samson and Delilah,'' erasing any doubt that she has the mettle to be considered a medal contender in Vancouver.
"It was a big confidence boost,'' Rochette said in a telephone interview. "A big one. I think I really needed that. It was not only that but I just have had a really good month of training.''
Although it seemed abundantly clear that Rochette had her ticket to Vancouver ready long before she ever landed in London, Ontario, for the national championships, she still had quite a bit to prove. She wanted to win six national titles, and, more importantly, she wanted to send a message to her international competitors that she hadn't fallen out of the medal picture.
Rochette ended last season on the highest note of her career with a silver-medal performance at the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles, where she was second to Korea's Yu-Na Kim, the most dominant woman in the sport. In her four previous trips to the World Championships she had never finished higher than fifth. That set the bar high for this season.
Rochette took some time off during the summer to make a six-day trip to Peru on behalf of the charity organization, World Vision. She visited with children from impoverished communities, where some families literally slept in houses with dirt floors, and she said the experience made her appreciate skating so much more. World Vision is the official charity for the Sears Stars on Ice tour.
"It was an amazing experience and something I never would've imagined before,'' Rochette said. "To see it with my own eyes ... It helped me put things in perspective when I got back to the rink.''