Joanne cuts fine figure on world stage
By JENNY McASEY, The Australian
3 April 1997

JOANNE CARTER yanks on the laces of her heavy white skating boots. She hasn't worn them for nearly two weeks, not since they spun her across the ice at the World Figure Skating Championships in Lausanne and into 11th place in the world.

It's a ranking no Australian female figure skater has ever reached. Until Joanne's effort, no Australian woman had ever been in the top 20; none had even qualified for the final of the world championship.

Sixteen-year-old Carter surprised herself, and shocked the heavies of the international figure skating world.

Her coach, former Russian national team member Andrei Pachin, says there was disbelief when Joanne beat more experienced skaters such as China's Lu Chen, the world silver medallist last year.

"Many people come to me and congratulate us, from Russia, from America, because for Australia ... it's like somebody from Africa doing cross-country skiing, it's unbelievable, the same with ice skating from Australia," Pachin said.

Actually, it is partly thanks to Australia's weather that Carter began ice skating. When she was about five years old her mother, Carol, took her to Sydney's Blacktown rink to escape the heat on a scorching day.

"She took to it straight away," says Carol Carter. "We just kept taking her back because she loved it and never wanted to get off the ice."

Joanne was soon entering competitions, and has been Australian champion in every age division. Since she was 13, she has been Australian champion in both the junior and senior divisions.

For the past eight years she has skated at Macquarie Ice Rink in Sydney's north west. Then, one year ago, a "gift from heaven" in the shape of Andrei Pachin arrived there, says Carol Carter.

Pachin has been in Australia since 1992, when he came to perform in the Moscow On Ice show and decided to stay. He spent time in Victoria, then moved to Sydney.

Both Joanne and her mother agree that Pachin has pushed her to new limits.

"He's amazing, he's fantastic," says Joanne. "Everything just kind of clicked. He's a motivator and that's exactly what I needed."

Says Carol Carter: "The more Andrei gets angry with Jo the more she says `well, I'll show you I can do it'."

It all came together for Joanne in Lausanne. She entered her first world championship aiming to make the top 16, which would qualify her for next year's Winter Olympics.

"I didn't know if that was possible at my first world championships and I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself," Joanne said. "I just wanted to skate three clean programs, to do a personal best and see where it put me."

Joanne says there is "lots and lots" of work to do between now and the Olympics if she is to achieve her dream of an Olympic medal.

"There has to be an improvement in every aspect of my skating," she said.

Oh, and there's also the matter of schooling to fit in. Carter is currently studying for her Higher School Certificate, and would like to do sports medicine.

How does she manage it all?

"She has no social life whatsoever! says her mother.

"None, but it's all worth it now," says Joanne.