Speedskater returns to Olympics after personal loss

Jilleanne Rookard

DETROIT (WOOD) — When Detroit-area speedskater Jilleanne Rookard was 18, she lost her father.

Nine years passed.

Then, four years ago before leaving to compete in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Rookard’s mother died.

She continued to compete, but it took its toll. In early 2013, just before the world championships in Europe, Rookard walked away from the ice.

The Wyandotte native returned to roller skating at her family-owned rink. She spent long night skating by herself, she said, and eventually found a way to deal with the loss of both her parents.

Rookard regained her love of ice skating. Just 11 months after she quit the sport altogether, she won the 3,000-meter race at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

So the 31-year-old is headed to the Olympics again — this time in Sochi, Russia.

Things are different this time, she said. After recovery a journey of acceptance, she has a new perspective on competing.

Rookard and the rest of the US Skating Team left the country Monday and made a stop in Italy for a final training camp. They arrived in the Olympic village Thursday.

The 2014 Olympics start Feb. 7.

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