Katarina Witt (GDR) at the Winter Olympic Games 1984©Getty Images
They once called her „socialism’s prettiest face“: Katarina Witt of Germany. The two-time Olympic Champion dominated the figure skating scene in the 80s, always accompanied by her legendary coach Jutta Müller, or as she is respectfully referred to “Frau Müller” (Mrs. Müller).
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Those deeply sad tears where wiped away from my longtime coach Frau Müller on March 26th 1988.I just won my 4th #worldchampionship titel in #budapest,got my #goldmedal and after the medal ceremony I had to sit down and sadly realized, that this was maybe the end of my passionate #skating and #competition career.Loving skating as much as I did, I had no idee what my future in this most beautiful sport still had to offer.Even I was relieved that this kind of pressure was finally over, my heart was so heavy. Still it was east #germany I went back home to and I had no clue that the wall would come down in 1989 and I would be able to have 20 more years full filled with with sooooooo much more #passionate skating , fun shows,tv specials,even another #olympics in 1994 and wonderful valuable friendships in the skating #world .What a happy ending after all......
Katarina Witt was born in 1965 near Berlin and grew up in Karl-Marx-Stadt (renamed Chemnitz after the German reunification) in what was then East Germany (German Democratic Republic) where she started skating and was coached by Müller, who by the way celebrated her 90th birthday last December and is still seen on the ice these days. Figure skating was very popular in East Germany that produced many successful skaters and Jutta Müller was one of the World’s best coaches at the time. In 1980, she coached Anett Pötzsch to Olympic gold and Jan Hoffmann to Olympic silver in Lake Placid. Katarina Witt was to be her next star pupil.
Coach Jutta Müller and Katarina Witt (GER) at the Winter Olympic Games 1994©Getty Images
Katarina, nicknamed Kati, actually debuted already at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 1979 in Zagreb at the age of 13 (the age limit was raised later) and ranked 14th. However, her rise started after teammate Anett Pötzsch retired in 1980. Two years later Witt claimed her first European and World medal, silver both times. Figures were not her strong point, but she usually caught up in the Short Program and Free Skating. In 1983, took the first of six consecutive European titles but ranked fourth at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships as she placed only 8th in figures.
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Girls go and rock the arena tonight at the #worldchampionship in #helsinki and may the best win and everyone have a memorable skating night forever ????????Those where the days in b/w at my worlds in Helsinki 1983 ending 4th or so ???? honestly I forgot.....???????? #skating #skatingfinland #passion #isu #goldmedal #competition
Katarina triumphed in the Olympic season 1983/84, striking gold at the European and World Championships as well as at the Olympic Games in Sarajevo, where she edged 1983 World Champion and favorite Rosalynn Sumners (USA). The German skater then went on to dominate the next Olympic cycle, only losing the World title to Debi Thomas (USA) once in 1986 in Geneva, but beating her again on home turf at the World Championships 1987. The Olympic Games 1988 in Calgary are known for the “Battle of the Carmens” with Witt and Thomas skating to music from George Bizet’s popular opera. Thomas finished third, Witt won, but it was close with Elizabeth Manley (CAN). Katarina Witt was already a star at home and abroad and ended her competitive career following the 1988 World Championships where she took her fourth World title.
Rosalyn Summers (USA) Katarina Witt (GDR) Kira Ivanova (URS) at the Winter Olympic Games 1984©Getty Images
Witt started a professional career and performed in shows, which was very unusual for an East German skater at a time when the “iron curtain” still divided the world into east and west. In 1989, she starred in the movie “Carmen on Ice” together with 1988 Olympic Champion Brian Boitano (USA) and 1988 Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser (CAN). Her interpretation of “Carmen” is still regarded as one of the best in figure skating. 2018 Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova (RUS), who skated to “Carmen” in the past season, said that she watched Witt’s performances to learn from her.
When the ISU allowed professional skaters to reinstate for the 1994 Olympic Games, Witt was one of those who took the opportunity. Many thought at first that it was just a PR move, but Katarina was serious, she returned to Frau Müller to Chemnitz, trained hard and got the ticket to compete for now unified Germany, finishing 8th at the European Championships and 7th at the Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer. She dedicated her free program to “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” to the people of Sarajevo - the place where she became Olympic Champion ten years before and that had suffered so badly during the civil war in former Yugoslavia. She closed out the figure skating competition in Lillehammer and moved many spectators with her performance. Witt, who was 28 at the time, hadn’t come back for another gold medal, but she came back to experience the Olympic Games one more time and without the pressure of having to win.
Katarina Witt (GER) at the Winter Olympic Games 1994©Getty Images
After Lillehammer, Witt returned to show skating and other projects such as show production, acting, moderating. She published her autobiography “Meine Jahre zwischen Pflicht und Kür” (“My Years in Between Compulsories and Free Skating”). She retired from show skating in 2008 with a final farewell tour and now focuses on projects such as sports promotion, protection of the environment and charity, but she her name remains connected to figure skating. Katarina Witt was head of the presentation committee for the Olympic bid of Munich and until now she commentates figure skating at the Olympic Games for German TV.
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„Sport has the power to change the world“ said Nelson Mandela, when The Laureus Foundation was founded and I am happy to keep supporting our mission! And so I still owed you the fantastic result of the #laureuscharitynight2018 and here it is . More than a Million Swiss Franc are donated and will be contributed to the different projects for the @laureus_switzerland #sportforgood and especially collected for a new project to support girls in sports and in dance???????? The goal is to bring 500 girls into dancegroups and in 2019 hopefully more than 2000 and have them compete. They showed us some fun performances that night and believe me, all our skater hearts went of course out to them????Sport and Dance give those girls so much more confidence for life , so of course we love to support them!!!!And thanks to the efforts of all the swiss Laureus Ambassadors, great athlets themselves, to donate their time to support lots of projects !#laureusfamily #charity #ambassador #botschafter #thanksalot @laureus.sport.for.good @laureussport #lovewhatido