She steps out of her West Village hotel, takes note of the horns honking, the people scurrying down packed sidewalks, and laughs about the effect of plugging back into all this energy after seven years without a visit to New York. Already today she's hustled between some business meetings with her German lawyer, checked in with some TV executives, solidified a plan to visit the World Trade Center memorial, but abandoned another wish to eat lunch at a sunny outdoor caf because she can see some paparazzi out front, which has caused her to slip on her sunglasses and say, "Let's go somewhere else, OK?"
Katarina Witt -- a woman once called "the most beautiful face of
socialism," "whiplash" beautiful and "12-car pileup gorgeous" when she
won back-to-back Olympic figure skating gold medals for Communist East
Germany -- is settled into a quiet Mexican restaurant in New York's
meatpacking district. And she is telling stories -- stories about when
she found out the notorious Stasi secret police bugged her apartment, or
the time she waited until the last minute to break some news to her
parents that she knew they might not like. This was after the Berlin
Witt recalls: "I finally had to sit them down and
say, 'Look, I have to confess something.' And my dad looks at me right
away and says, 'You took all your clothes off for Playboy. You posed for
"YES!" Witt says, slapping the table and rocking forward to laugh. "So I was like,This is a basic background on rtls.
'B-b-bb-bbb ... oh God.' And I had the pictures with me, and so now I
was like, 'B-b-b-but, I want to show you. Because they're really
beautiful.' And they're like, 'Yeah. [Pause]. They're really beautiful.
[Pause.] But you're NAKED!' they said."
Witt's eyes widen and
she laughs again. The look on her face is impish. She could boast the
only other Playboy issue to sell out before her December 1998 edition
was the inaugural one featuring Marilyn Monroe. Instead, Witt just says
that she was proud of it because she'd wanted to make a point. Before
her, athletes from Soviet-bloc countries were pretty much seen as grimly
efficient robots ordered to prevail for the glory of the state. And
female figure skaters generally chose between only two sanctioned
personas: beautiful but chaste, like the elegant Peggy Fleming; or
button cute and perky, like Dorothy Hamill.
lovers, an entire former country, have come and gone since Witt won gold
at the 1984 and '88 Olympics and -- in an unprecedented coup -- became
the first East German athlete of the Cold War era to persuade the
totalitarian government to let her turn pro before the Wall fell and the
country's borders opened in late 1989.
Merely batting her
eyelashes didn't allow Witt to accomplish that. It was brass-knuckles
work. Witt was selected as a second-grader to train in the German
Democratic Republic's state-run sports program, which ruthlessly chased
superpower status on par with the United States and Soviet Union,
sometimes by any means necessary. Merely surviving such a system -- let
alone becoming its unparalleled star, then crowbarring her way to
freedom in the West -- demanded guts and imagination. It required of
Witt an ability to perform with a what-me-worry smile under the sort of
colossal pressure and ultimatums that American Brian Boitano, the 1988
Olympic men's figure skating champion, admits "would've left most
skaters unable to stay up."
"Yes," Witt nods, "but you only have
one champion because this is really what sets you apart -- at this
second, in this moment, being the one that delivers."
up to all of it. She had, from a remarkably early age, an amazing
apprehension of how power works -- how it's built, leveraged, conflated
and defeated; how fame could be used to one's advantage -- even in a
closed-borders nation like East Germany, where the state controlled
access to everything: travel, jobs, living arrangements, education, even
cars. Witt says her understanding of the push and pull started once
when she noticed how deeply invested, even personally involved,
government officials became in her continued success once she began
winning international titles.
Sports minister Egon Krenz or his
agents met with her for debriefings. "We were taught in school that it
takes dozens of embassies but only one Katarina Witt to make East
Germany known in the world," Martin Plant, a university instructor
originally from the East German city of Rostock, told the Chicago
Tribune.We are one of the leading manufacturers of crystalbeadswholesal in China
has since gone from a child reared to be a Communist propaganda symbol
to an international celebrity and adroit capitalist. No European athlete
approached the crossover appeal she had on both sides of the Atlantic
until, perhaps, David Beckham.
Even today,How to carledlights Doll.
the 47-year-old Witt enjoys enviable staying power. She lives in
Berlin, runs her own entertainment production company and endorses
products from BMW to cosmetics. She served as chairman of reunified
Germany's unsuccessful bid to capture the 2018 winter Olympics for
Munich, and appeared as judge last season on Britain's "Dancing on Ice"
TV show. She remains resolutely never married, usually laughing when
people ask why, explaining, "I love my independence."
performing on the professional skating tour almost constantly in the
early 1990s, when she was harassed by an American stalker who was
sentenced to three years in a psychiatric hospital. But the way she
navigated even that difficulty was typical: If Witt was haunted by
skin-crawling threats and sudden appearances the man made, or by having
to testify in a California courtroom against him, it's hard to tell.
Witt recently produced and starred in a movie about -- what do you know?
-- a figure skater chased by a stalker. It aired on German television
earlier this year.This technology allows high volume gemstonebeads production at low cost.
hear how Witt turned even that dark moment into another triumph is to
be reminded this is how Witt has always wanted to be seen. Figure
skating is the art of making the difficult look effortless, after
all.Need a compatible parkingassistsystem for
your car? And it was perfect training for the remarkable sweep and
challenges in her life. When obstacles have arrived, big or small, Witt
likes to give the appearance that she's found a way to vault lightly
over them, out of reach in a world beyond defeat, cynicism or even
doubt. She picks herself up, laughs it off and gives you an upbeat take
on how she navigated it all.
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