Skate of the nation
Bruce McDougall, Daily Telegraph
20 February 1998

MINUTES after skating to an outstanding 11th place at the Winter Olympics Australian teenage ice queen Joanne Carter buried her head on her coach's shoulder and said: "I'm sorry."

Carter, 17, had just pulled off Australia's finest performance of the Nagano Games to date with a short routine marred only slightly by a small stumble while executing one of the most difficult of all jumps.

As she sat in the "kiss and cry" area at Nagano's White Ring stadium, the Year 12 student from Sydney's north-western suburbs was comforted by figure skating coach Andrei Pachin.

With her expectations set at world top 10 level and maybe even higher, Carter's elation was tempered by the knowledge that she had fallen just short of her best.

Her performance on a cold Nagano night, however, was enough to gladden the hearts of Australian team officials and maybe help inspire alpine skier teammate Zali Steggall to yesterday's medalwinning runs in the slalom.

Carter is now Australia's pre-eminent female figure skater of all time, adding an Olympic top 12 placing to the 11th she gained at the 1997 world championships in Lausanne.

Tonight she has promised the performance of her life in the free skate where she will attempt all the twists, tricks and triple jumps in her already considerable armoury.

Still puffing after her program, she said: "Now I can go into Friday night with all the triples, take the risks.

"In the free skate there is more time and you are allowed to repeat things I have nothing to lose." Carter, who has won the national women's title for the past four years, became the first Australian in August last year to land a triple lutz in competition and one of only a handful internationally who perform the jump.

The 158cm brunette from Sydney's Macquarie Skating Club was five when her mother Carol took her into an ice rink to cool down on a hot summer day. She enjoyed it so much that she returned and started group lessons. From there she graduated to individual lessons and a star career was born.

Apart from a few hours at weekends Carter really doesn't get much time to act like a normal teenager, although one of her listed interests is hanging out with friends.

"That's all going to be there when I finish but the Olympics is once in a lifetime," she says hoping that Nagano will be the first of many Games for her.

Coached by the Russian husband and wife team of Andrei and Galena Pachin, the Sydney skater knows she is now not far from the best the world has to offer.