Blogtober Day 14: Katarina Witt

I used to watch a ton of ice skating when I was a kid, and Katarina was in all of those pro shows I loved so much. But I didn't realize what a big deal she is until really recently. Embarrassingly recently.

When she was a kid growing up in East Germany, she attended a school for athletically gifted children. Is that, like, the jock equivalent of being a nerd? Well, whatever. She trained like a fiend and got onto a major podium for the first time in 1982, and so began her reign of dominance. She won gold at every East German Championships from 1981-88, every European Championships from 1983-88, and at four World Championships from 1984-88. She won Olympic gold in 1984 and then defended her title in 1988.
After winning freaking EVERYTHING in 1988 (seriously, I'm not even exaggerating), Katarina went pro, which was super rare for an East German athlete back then. Y'know, socialism and all. She toured with several shows, even selling out Madison Square Garden for her show with Brian Boitano, and acted in the film Carmen on Ice, which she received an Emmy Award for. Hah. For real.

Katarina made a comeback to competitive skating in 1994 and managed to qualify for her third Olympics, where she placed seventh. Not bad for someone who'd been out of the game for six years!
Remember how I said Katarina won Olympic gold in 1984 and won it again in '88? She's one of two ladies' figure skaters ever to defend her Olympic title, and was the first to in about 50 years. The only other name on that list is Sonja Henie, who won in 1928, 1932 and 1936 and is by far one of the greatest figure skaters ever. Katarina and Sonja also happen to co-hold the record for consecutive European Championships won. Basically, Katarina is right up there with the best ever.

She was also something of a revolutionary, not only in her skating abilities but in her... uh, creative choices? She consistently pushed the boundaries by wearing costumes considered by many to be too sexy, and then posed for Playboy in 1998. I can't say I personally give this particular decision a thumbs-up, but Katarina has said that she wanted to change the perception of skaters as being "cute, pretty, ice princesses," which I definitely can support. Do your thang, gurl!
And finally, after the dissolution of East Germany, Katarina found Stasi files showing that the secret police busted their butts to keep her from defecting, giving her cars, accommodations and permitted travel. In total, there were 3,000 pages on her life dating back to when she was eight years old. How bizarre must that have been? (EspnW made a Nine for IX movie about her called The Diplomat, which I'm still DYING to see.) People called her "the most beautiful face of socialism."
And to think I just liked her for her skating. Sigh

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1 comment :

  1. Oh, how we loved watching her skate! I so remember Katerina and Debi Thomas in the Battle of the Carmens!