Katarina Witt - Biography & Career
Katarina Witt was born on December 3rd, 1965, in Staaken, East Germany. Her father, Manfred, managed an agricultural products factory, while her mother, Kathe, was a physical therapist. Rounding out the Witt family was Katarina's brother Axel, also an athlete, who trained to be a physical therapist like his mother. Coincidentally, Axel would later marry Anett Potzsch, the 1980 Olympic figure skating gold medalist, who was a pupil of Katarina's skating coach.
Katarina was drawn to skating from the start. Every day, on her way to school, Katarina would pass by the Kuchwald Ice Arena, and pestered her mother to let her try skating. Once Kathe agreed, it was clear that Katarina was a natural. It wasn't long before the director of the Karl-Marx-Stadt sports school, Bernd Egert, spotted her and admitted her to the school.
In 1974, when Katarina was 9 years old, one of East Germany's most respected coaches, Jutta Mueller (who also trained Katarina's future sister-in-law) first watched Katarina skate, and realized her potential. Mueller took Katarina under her wing and laid the groundwork for Katarina's success.
By the early 1980s, Katarina was clearly a champion on the way up. In 1982, she took home silver medals from both the European and World Figure Skating Championships. The next year, Katarina won the European Championship, and won it six consecutive times from 1983 through 1988. Meanwhile, she won the gold at the World Championship in 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988. These achievements were capped with a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic games in Sarajevo and the 1988 Olympic games in Calgary. In half a dozen years, Katarina had racked up more titles than anyone before her.
Following her second Olympic gold, Katarina turned pro. For the next three years, she toured America with fellow gold medalist Brian Boitano in "Witt and Boitano Skating." Their show was enormously popular, marking, for example, the first time in a decade that Madison Square Garden was sold out for an ice show.
The 1990s saw Katarina take off in new directions -- though she never left skating behind. Katarina worked as a commentator for German television coverage of skating championships and for CBS' coverage of the 1992 Albertville Olympics. Katarina competed in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, finishing in 7th place. In 1995, Katarina became the first German to win the Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Award, and, over the next few years, toured as part of the Stars on Ice show and took part in international professional competitions.
At the same time, Katarina took up acting, appearing in telefilms such as Carmen on Ice (1990) -- for which she won an Emmy award -- and The Ice Princess (1995).
Starting in 1996, she guest starred and had cameo roles in TV shows such as Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, Arliss, and VIP, and appeared in the film Jerry Maguire (1996) and the Robert De Niro thriller Ronin (1998).
And if that weren't enough, between media appearances, Katarina had the time to pursue another hobby, painting, and even founded her own international sports and entertainment company.