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Two-time Olympic champ has parlayed her fame into more tangible success

Source: Daily News Los Angeles
Date: January 17, 2002
Author: Jerry Rice

Katarina Witt knows capitalism.

The two-time Olympic figure-skating champion -- with TV production credits on her resume, appearances in films like "Jerry Maguire" and "Ronin," a fitness book and even her own line of jewelry -- is an industry unto herself.

"Well, I like making money and the independence that comes with it," Witt says.

This weekend at the Arrowhead Pond and Staples Center, she'll be collecting a check for what she does best: wowing audiences with other world and Olympic champions in Stars on Ice. Also appearing will be Tara Lipinski, Kristi Yamaguchi, Kurt Browning and Ilia Kulik, among others.

It's a different life than the one she knew as a successful young skater behind the Iron Curtain in East Germany -- even after she gained international attention as the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in Sarajevo.

"I didn't really grow up with a lot of stardom, which in some ways was good for me," she says. "It kept me grounded. It kept me going into more world championships and into another Olympics and winning another Olympics."

Witt, 36, knows plenty about winning. She started skating at the age of 5, and four years later came under the direction of famed skating coach Jutta Muller. When she first advanced to international meets, the 1982 European and world championships, she placed second at each. The performances were significant because after them she put together an impressive string of 13 first-place finishes at the amateur and professional levels, interrupted only once by a second at the 1986 world championships.

While she won't be skating to the opera "Carmen" during Stars on Ice, like she did for the 1990 HBO special that earned her an Emmy Award, Witt will demonstrate her unique blend of spins, loops and sex appeal.

"For a figure skater, it's the ultimate show to be a part of because you are featured and highlighted in your best way," Witt says.

When Stars on Ice is on hiatus during next month's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Witt won't be taking time off. She'll be working as a commentator for German television.

Trying to remain impartial, Witt isn't about to pick a favorite in a competition that features home-country favorite Michelle Kwan.

"It really comes down to who will rise to the occasion, and who will be able to keep their nerves together and give it their best under a lot of pressure," Witt says.

Having done it twice, she has some advice on what it takes to win at the Games: "Block everything out of your mind, concentrate on your competition, and go for it."