Sports Factor: The Cool Sport of Ice Skating
Radio National Transcript: Friday,
November 28, 1997
Australians aren't generally known for being world class
winter sports athletes. Although we've competed in the Winter
Olympics since 1936, Australia's first and only Winter Olympics
medal, a bronze, wasn't achieved until 1994, in the men's
short-track speed-skating relay at the last Games in Lillehammer.
So it might surprise you to know that Joanne Carter, a 17-year-old
Sydney-sider, is currently one of the world's top dozen
female figure skaters. In fact she's ranked at number eleven
at the moment. And this weekend, Joanne's competing in an
invitational event in Japan. Funnily enough, Joanne started
ice-skating as a way of cooling down in the summer.
Carter: I actually started when I was five years old.
It was just totally by chance. My Mum took me into an ice-rink
because it was a hot day, and I loved it so much that she
just took me back.
Smith: Well Australia isn't known for producing champion
figure-skaters. Is it a disadvantage being Australian in
terms of progressing in this sport?
Carter: Not so much any more. I think one of the only
disadvantages that we do have is that it's a lot harder
for us to participate in international competitions all
year round because of the cost to get over to Europe, where
they're all held. It is a lot harder for us to do four and
five internationals a year, but that would be the only disadvantage
really. We do have the facilities over here now, and ice-skating
is becoming a more high profile sport.
Smith: How much international competition have you participated
in so far, since the first one when you were 13?
Carter: I've done an international trip every year since
then. I've done three Junior World Championships and I've
done one Senior World Championship, as well as other smaller
international competitions as well.
Smith: And you're currently ranked number eleven in
the world in figure-skating. How did you achieve that ranking?
Carter: Well just this March gone, we had to go to Lausanne
in Switzerland for the World Championships, and it was there
that I actually finished eleventh, so that gave me the world
ranking of eleventh.
Smith: And did that surprise either yourself or other
Carter: It surprised myself, and I'm pretty sure that
it surprised my coach as well. We were sort of going in
not knowing what to expect, because it was my first World
Championship. But when we got there and I was skating well
and I seemed to just peak at the right time. So it was a
shock, but it was a nice shock.
Smith: Absolutely. Well you're competing in an event
in Japan shortly. Tell me about that event.
Carter: It's called NHK. It's actually an invitational
international competition, and it's for the top twelve in
the world. So we'll go to Japan, and it's at the same site
as the Olympics, so that should be a really good forerunner.
Smith: Would you describe yourself as a powerful athletic
type of skater, say like thinking back to the last Winter
Olympics in Lillehammer, say the French skater Surya Bonaly,
or even the infamous Tonya Harding; or are you a more lyrical
kind of skater, maybe like Oksana Baiul or Nancy Kerrigan???
Carter: I'd probably say I'm not quite as lyrical as
Oksana Baiul or Nancy Kerrigan. I prefer to do the fast
sort of movements across the ice, and powerful, that sort
of thing, rather than the slow and graceful. I don't think
I'm too good at the graceful stuff.
Smith: Right, so you're much more of an athletic, power
kind of figure-skater.
Carter: I think so, yes.
Smith: Do you enjoy the theatrical aspect of figure-skating
competition? You know, the costumes and the sequins and
the music and so on, that isn't really a part of a lot of
Carter: Yes I think that's what makes the sport so unique.
It's such a powerful sport and you do have to be fit and
strong for it, but you also have to incorporate that aesthetic
side as well, where you have to please the audience as well
as the judges, and make it enjoyable for people to watch.
Smith: What training do you do off the ice, Joanne?
Carter: We do off-ice training twice a week. We do Thursday
nights at Homebush at the Institute, and that's sort of
a stretching class with ballet and arm movements and that
sort of thing. And that's really helpful as well for our
on-ice stuff where we need to use our arms, and it also
strengthens our legs as well, and provides some stamina
training. And the other off-ice training that we do is of
a Saturday morning and that's taken by my coach, and he
gets us to run around and do a lot of stamina work, and
then a lot of strength work as well, but using our own body
weight as resistance rather than weights, so that we don't
bulk up. And then we do everything that we do on ice, we
basically bring off ice so that we can get the feeling of
it and get it more stable before we put it into practice
Smith: Alright. So you start off programs - you actually
learn them off-ice first and then put it on ice, is that
Carter: Not with the programs, no. With the programs
they're usually made on-ice, so that we get the mapping
of it right. And the things that we take off-ice are usually
the jumps, and we do rotations off the ice, where we're
jumping and turning in the air, just to get the feeling
of pulling in and rotating.
Smith: Well ice-skating, like women's gymnastics, is
very much a young person's sport these days. What do you
predict the duration of your competitive career will be?
Carter: Hopefully I'll stay around for the 2002 Olympics.
I think that would be nearing the end of my career, but
hopefully it's not the end of my career. Today the skaters
are tending to hang around for a bit longer, and many of
the women skaters aren't actually retiring until they're
maybe 25 or 26, which is good. But you do get the younger
ones like Oksana Baiul who did retire when she was 17, 18
after winning the Olympics. So it's pretty varied and I
think it just depends on the individual.
Smith: A lot of skaters go on to careers in professional
ice shows after they've finished competing - things like
'Disney on Ice' or 'Wizard of Oz on Ice', or whatever. Is
that something you want to do?
Carter: I'd like to join the shows for a year or two,
not for too long. I'd like to join the shows and travel
for a little while but then I'd like to come back in and
maybe do some coaching or something like that. But also
I'd like to have a degree behind me as well, go to uni and
have something else apart from skating.
Smith: Joanne Carter, just 17 years old and taking on
the world in figure skating. And she's the only Australian
woman who'll be competing in the figure skating at the Winter
Olympics in Nagano, in Japan, next year.