On A Strange White World, Skating Dream Comes True
Sam North, Sydney Morning Herald
1 May, 1997
trip to Nagano will have special significance for one family,
writes SAM NORTH .
Alan Carter, sitting beside his wife Carol at the ice rink
in Lausanne, Switzerland back in March, there were two choices.
could either break down and weep, or get up and run.
businessman from West Pennant Hills decided on the latter
and raced from his seat, through the stands, down the stairs
to be there to greet their daughter Joanne, their only child,
as she came off the ice ... triumphant!
was the World Figure Skating Championships and the then
16-year-old had shocked herself, her coach, her parents
and the skating world, by finishing in 11th place - well
inside the magical top 16 which was necessary to guarantee
automatic selection for the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan,
It was the highest individual placing ever by an Australian
woman in figure skating and this at her first senior world
weeks later, Joanne Carter, now 17, is still trying to come
to terms with having achieved the Olympic goal she set herself
about seven years ago. Ask her how it feels and the words
tumble out: "It's amazing, I still can't believe it.
It's just a big thrill, it's my whole dream and goal, and
everything has just come at once - I still can't believe
long journey that leads to Nagano began on a sweltering
Sydney day when Carter was around 4 1/2 years old. Her mother
decided to take her to Blacktown ice rink, where she strapped
on the bulky hired blades and took her first tentative steps
into the strange white world that was to be her future.
she loved it.
when she fell over and hurt herself, she didn't cry,"
Carol Carter recalls. "She just went back out and had
another go. She used to always say when she finished: 'Can
we go tomorrow?' "
there, it was coaching - including one selfless mentor who
told the Carters that their daughter had such great potential
that she really should be taught by John Carlow at the Macquarie
looked after Carter for around six years and, apart from
teaching the technical proficiency which enabled her to
become an institution on the winner's dais at State and
National age championships, instilled in her the urgency
of not getting stuck in the backwater of Australian skating.
coached by former Russian skater Andrei Pachin, who, she
says, has lifted her performance to another level, Carter
went to Switzerland with stars in her eyes and doubts in
was really intimidated at first," she says of the few
days practice that led up to the world championships, "seeing
all these people that I'd seen on TV. But after you get
past that, it's very motivating to see them.
think I looked at them (in practice), thinking 'I'll never
be able to do that, maybe I'll never be able to get there.'
But my coach was saying things and I was thinking 'Yes,
well I can do that' and gradually as the week went on I
thought 'Well, I got my way here, so I might as well make
the most of it.' "
ability to focus has been honed by regular sessions with
leading sports psychologist John Crampton at the NSW Institute
of Sport, where Carter also receives sports science and
has also spent the past couple of weeks working with Tom
Dixon, an American who has been brought to Australia specially
to choreograph a new long routine for Carter to take to
current training regime involves 4.30 am starts six mornings
a week, hitting the ice at the Macquarie rink around 5.45
am for a session that ends at 8 am. Then its off to school
- yes, folks, she is in the middle of Year 12 at the "incredibly
supportive" Mount St Benedict College - before another
two-hour session beginning at 4 pm, four afternoons a week.
the Worlds (World Championships) my dream was to get to
the Olympics. That was just everything, that was the only
thing, that was my biggest goal. Now, after the Worlds,
now that I'm there, I want to do well in the Olympics -
I still can't believe that I'm getting there, so the Olympics
is still my biggest thing," she says.
possible, it may be an even bigger thing for her father.
His dream was also to see his daughter skate at the Olympics
but most of the pundits predicted 2002 as the most realistic
Games for Joanne.
might have proved a bit of a problem for Alan Carter. "I
never thought I'd see it," he says with the sort of
honesty reserved for those who have some inkling of mortality.
Just over three years ago, desperately ill, he received
a heart transplant. He has been in good health since, "but
its a bit of a toss-up if I'll be here", he says of
2002. When Nagano became a reality, the only toss-up was
to cry or run.