Olympic speedskater with local ties overcomes personal tragedy
MILWAUKEE - Jilleanne Rookard is the girl next door. She spent most of her life on wheels at her parent's roller rink in Michigan. While training at the Pettit, she became a DJ at 'Incrediroll' in West Allis.
Jill went to the Vancouver Olympics, where she took video showing us around.
She didn't medal but had a good performance. Through all of the competition and all of the smiles, Jill was hurting inside. Her beloved mother passed away from cancer just before the 2010 Olympics. Jill's father died when she was 18.
"When my dad passed away and I said, 'Oh I still have my mother... Then my grandmother died. I've had so many people die in the past three years," she recalls. She adds, "I wish I could call my mom so much, but luckily I have 5 older brothers and an older sister."
Still, Jill found that grief crushed her after Vancouver. Her times slipped.
"I actually came to a really low, all time low in skating and I thought I was going to quit last year. It wasn't a pretty sight to say the least," Jilleane says.
Jill moved back home to Michigan, and evaluated her life. "I had grown to dislike myself so much, I didn't like who I was in life or in sports-- I had lost connections with people around me.
Late nights alone at the rink helped. "Sometimes I go in by myself at 10 at night and put on the music and my roller skates."
And she would think of her mom, dad, grandma and others. "It's my time to thank them for everything they've done."
She turned a corner-- seeing a counselor and leaning on boyfriend, fellow speedskater Trevor Marsicano. But the real reason she righted the ship she explains, "They were all very helpful but ultimately it had to come from within."
She found joy again. Now Jill is headed to Sochi. Unfortunately, Trevor did not make it this time. But Jill is back behind 'Jill cam', helping our viewers see life from an athlete's perspective.
Jill's mother is with her constantly. "I have dreams about her almost every night, it's bizarre," Jill admits.
There will be hard days-- Mother's Day is especially tough-- but Jill has found a new peace. She believes her loved ones will watch over her during these Olympics. She just wishes they could be there in person.
Jill is competing in two individual events and possibly a third team race. We'll bring you 'Jill cam' video all throughout the games.