The Sports Factor: The Cool Sport of Ice Skating
Radio National Transcript: Friday, November 28, 1997

Now 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.

Joanne 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.

Amanda Smith: Well Australia isn't known for producing champion figure-skaters. Is it a disadvantage being Australian in terms of progressing in this sport?

Joanne 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.

Amanda Smith: How much international competition have you participated in so far, since the first one when you were 13?

Joanne 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.

Amanda Smith: And you're currently ranked number eleven in the world in figure-skating. How did you achieve that ranking?

Joanne 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.

Amanda Smith: And did that surprise either yourself or other people there?

Joanne 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.

Amanda Smith: Absolutely. Well you're competing in an event in Japan shortly. Tell me about that event.

Joanne 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.

Amanda 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???

Joanne 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.

Amanda Smith: Right, so you're much more of an athletic, power kind of figure-skater.

Joanne Carter: I think so, yes.

Amanda 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 other sports.

Joanne 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.

Amanda Smith: What training do you do off the ice, Joanne?

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 on ice.

Amanda Smith: Alright. So you start off programs - you actually learn them off-ice first and then put it on ice, is that right?

Joanne 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.

Amanda 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?

Joanne 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.

Amanda 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?

Joanne 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.

Amanda 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.