Grieving Rochette breaks down in tears

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By Pritha Sarkar

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A grieving Joannie Rochette held her nerve for three incredible minutes on Tuesday and after dazzling the crowd with a near flawless short programme, she finally broke down in tears on the ice just two days after her mother's sudden death.

The six-times Canadian champion had somehow managed to put on a brave face in public throughout the past 48 hours despite the personal torment she has been going through ever since her father broke the tragic news to her at 6am on Sunday.

On Tuesday, she brought a lump to everyone's throat when she took to the ice looking remarkably composed and maintained that aura of calm during her sultry performance to La Cumparsita.

When the music ended, the crowd leapt to their feet and an emotional Rochette could no longer hold back the tears.

With her right hand on her heart, and shaking with emotion, the 24-year-old bowed to all corners of the Pacific Coliseum before skating off the ice and into the comforting arms of her coach Manon Perron.

She was rewarded for her courage with a score of 71.36.

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; editing by Jon Bramley)