I was trapped in block of ice: Rochette

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By Janet Guttsman

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Joannie Rochette put her feelings on ice before Thursday's medal-winning skate, aware she had no time to think about the death of her mother, the Canadian figure skater said on Friday.

"It was as though I was trapped in a big block of ice, that's how I was able to confront the situation," a still emotional Rochette told a news conference the day after she brought home the bronze medal in the women's program.

"When I went on the ice, it's as though nothing could penetrate me."

Rochette's mother died suddenly on Sunday, hours after she had arrived in Vancouver to watch her daughter skate.

That gave an already tense women's skating contest an especially poignant air, and brought Rochette the overwhelming support of a fiercely partisan crowd.

"I felt a lot of love from the crowd -- I was not prepared for that," she said. "It was very emotional to get so much love in one moment, and it was a little overwhelming. It's something I am going to remember for the rest of my life."

Rochette, 24, was third at the start of Thursday's program, and she held on to that position, winning roars of acclaim for successful jumps and sympathetic applause for the occasional stumble.

She also won the admiration of Robin Cousins, 1980 Olympic figure skating champion.

"I recently lost my father and the idea of having to step on the ice and deliver that at the same time is mind-boggling. I thought it was great," Cousins told Reuters.

"She knew what she needed to do and absolutely delivered it. It was thrilling to be there."

Rochette finished behind Kim Yuna from South Korea and Mao Asada from Japan.

"A great part of my mother's life was dedicated to me, and I will miss everything that she has done for me. This medal belongs to both of us," she said, looking sad yet composed after what coach Manon Perron said had been an almost sleepless night.

(Additional reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond)