VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Joannie Rochette would have preferred if Petra Majdic was the sole recipient of the Vancouver 2010 Terry Fox Award.
The Canadian figure skater whose mother died suddenly last weekend and the Slovenian cross-country skier who won a bronze medal despite competing with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung were honored Saturday with the award, which honors athletes who embody Fox's determination, courage and humility. Fox ran a "Marathon of Hope" across Canada on a prosthetic leg in 1980 to raise funds for cancer research.
"I would have liked to inspire people for another reason, but that's the way it is," Rochette said, stopping several times to compose herself. "It's not even a week since she died and I don't even realize yet that my mom is not here anymore. I don't even realize I have won this medal. My feelings are so mixed."
Fox died in 1981 at age 22, but remains a hero in Canada. More than $500 million has been raised in his name for cancer research.
With the games in British Columbia, where Fox grew up, Vancouver organizers thought it only fitting to honor Olympians who were the "mirror image in spirit of Terry," VANOC CEO John Furlong said.
"You'd look at these individuals and know they lived and believed in the things Terry did," Furlong said.
The selection committee originally planned to pick one recipient. But Rochette and Majdic's stories were so compelling they decided to honor both. Fox's parents, Rolly and Betty, presented Majdic and Rochette with the awards, metal and wooden trays depicting the path of Fox's run.
Majdic was considered a favorite in both the individual classical sprint and the 30K classical race. But she crashed during training before the individual classical sprint Feb. 17, falling on a sharp curve and tumbling off the course, then sliding on her back down a three-meter slope and onto some rocks.
She insisted on competing despite her injuries, skiing with her face twisted in pain.
"Yesterday, when they told me what I would be getting today, I was shaking myself like never before," Majdic said. "I was asking myself why did this happen to me? Why? Today I know. No gold medal would inspire people as they will be inspired now."
Rochette's heart-wrenching story has made her the emotional focal point of the Vancouver Olympics. Her mother, Therese, suffered a massive heart attack and died Sunday, just hours after she and Rochette's father, Normand, arrived in Vancouver and two days before the women's short program.
Rochette decided to compete and won the bronze medal Thursday night.
"I didn't plan on inspiring so many people," Rochette said. "I know my mom is up there watching and is so proud, so thank you for all of your support throughout these games."