UPDATE: According to Rochette's agent, David Baden, the skater is free to perform in the benefit show and is not facing any sanctions from the International Skating Union. Baden told Yahoo! Sports that it was Rochette's decision to skip the World Championships.
"ISU will not sanction her to skate an exhibition number at the Thin Ice show," Baden wrote in an email. "She decided not to go to the World Championships."
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Joannie Rochette, the Canadian figure skater who won bronze in Vancouver just days after her mother's death, is now being pushed around by the International Skating Union (figure skating's international governing body) because she wants to skate a tribute to her mother.
Rochette is scheduled to skate at a made-for-television exhibition, "Thin Ice," performing the routine she did at the Olympic Gala, a skate set to her mother's favorite song.
Unfortunately, this event is not sanctioned by the ISU, and they are flexing their muscles in trying to keep Rochette from skating.
According to Chicago Tribune sources, when the ISU learned Rochette planned to skate the tribute again as part of "Thin Ice,'' an event that does not have the international federation's sanction, it reminded Rochette that both she and Skate Canada would run afoul of ISU rules 102 and 136 if she did the exhibition.
Rule 102 threatens Rochette's individual eligibility as a skater if she perform at a non-sanctioned event, while a violation of 136 could cause the ISU to place sanctions on Canada's figure skating governing body. Skating a tribute to her mother for a television audience could cause both Rochette and her country to be penalized by the ISU.
Isn't there some solution that could allow Rochette to perform the skate for her mother? On Saturday, it looked like there was.
But, according to people familiar with the situation, the ISU has decided to let her do the exhibition with the quid pro quo that she skate at Worlds, but Rochette has yet to decide whether she wants to compete at Worlds. Were she to skate the exhibition and then withdraw from Worlds, the ISU could demand medical evidence to justify the withdrawal.
But Monday, it was announced that Rochette withdrew from the World Championships.
Now we see what this is really about. She is a great draw. Her performance under terrible conditions was not only inspiring, but a television ratings bonanza. The ISU wants those ratings for themselves.
They have good concern to be worried about ratings for the World Championships. Several Olympic notables, including men's skaters Evan Lysacek, Johnny Weir and ice dancing pair Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin have opted out of the event.
But playing on a young woman's grief is not the answer to their problems with ratings. There is a large difference between preparing for a one-night exhibition and another world-level competition, and Rochette shouldn't be forced.
The ISU would be wise to show some of the grace and class that Rochette did just a few weeks ago in Vancouver, and allow her to skate when she wants.