2013年8月7日 星期三

The Tao of Katarina Witt

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?"

Now, 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 Wall fell.

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 Playboy.'"

"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.

Rivals, regimes, 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."

Witt was 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

Witt 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."

Witt was 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.

To 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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