Chat with Katarina Witt
Witt's six straight European titles is still a record.
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, two-time Olympic gold medalist Katarina Witt chats about the latest espnW Nine for IX film "The Diplomat" (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) that chronicles her golden rise in the socialist East Germany.
Witt won the women's figure skating competition at both the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics and is just one of two women to win more than once. In addition, she dominated non-Olympic events by winning six European titles (1983-88) and four world championships (1984-85, 1987-88).
At the height of the Cold War, Witt became one of East Germany's most famous athletes, which triggered constant surveillance by the Stasi, East Germany's secret police force. "The Diplomat" chronicles how Witt ended up both a beneficiary and victim of the East German regime.
Send your questions now and join Witt Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (12:26 PM)
Katarina will be here in a few minutes to take your questions! The latest espnW Nine for IX film "The Diplomat" premieres tonight on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET and chronicles Katarina's gold medal career while competing for East Germany.
Buzzmaster (12:41 PM)
Hang in there folks. Just got word she's running about 10 minutes behind schedule.
Buzzmaster (12:54 PM)
She is here!
how were you approached about this film?
Katarina Witt (12:57 PM)
ESPN directly asked me and explained to me the whole idea about the series of female athletes in the Nine for IX concept. I liked the idea, but I was still careful. I wanted to first meet the directors and see if I could let go and trust two strangers. I had a really good feeling right away with them.
when did you first realize that you were being watched by your own government?
Katarina Witt (12:58 PM)
I always suspected it during the time of GDR, my home country. But the amount of it, I only saw when I got to see my files in the early 90s. I was pretty much surprised and pretty much in shock how detailed my life was watched.
Did you have any input into the direction of the film?
Katarina Witt (12:59 PM)
No, not at all. It was completely up to the directors. It was something that I felt I could trust them and they would find out and find their own story within my story, the way they would talk to the people that were a part of my life and career and doing the right research. I left it to them, hoping that they will find a way to see my biography through their eyes, the way that I saw it through my eyes. It really worked.
How is skating different now than when you were competing?
Katarina Witt (1:00 PM)
First of all, I think we should never compared times now to 25 years ago, or my skating compared to Peggy Flemming's time. You have to take it where it's at this moment and the level it's at. Since the 60s, it's developed to the 70s, 80s, and until now. It's technically become much more difficult, but I guess still the skaters put the same passion into it, just like if it were the 60s, 70s, 80s, now. As an athlete, you share the same passion.
what did you think when you saw the final version of the film?
Katarina Witt (1:01 PM)
The final version, I saw the first time at the Tribeca Festival. I was touched and moved by the way my own story was told by strangers.
What was the government concerned about? Why were they watching you?
Katarina Witt (1:03 PM)
The biggest concern was that I would leave my country and defect to a western country. At this time, in the 80s, I was one of the most famous athletes. I was very outspoken and thankful to my country of the possibility to become such an athlete at that level, the way the sport was supported by the system. I was outspoken and saying I was thankful. If I had defected, it would have been very shameful for the government. That was their biggest fear for me to leave.
Considering the struggles you had in your career, would you do it all over again if you were given the chance?
Katarina Witt (1:05 PM)
Every single second I would repeat the way it was.
Katarina Witt (1:05 PM)
Because even the mistakes that you do, I think they are right. You have to make mistakes in life to learn that it was wrong. You can grow from it.
Did the government put any extra pressure on you to make sure you won your events?
Katarina Witt (1:08 PM)
In these days, there were extra pressure in the ways of the "Cold War" because in the say the sport was used to show which is the better system. With being very successful in sports, the country would use it as "See? We do live in a better system." With that, it put the extra pressure on you, because you felt you had to give back because of the training possibilities you got. The training was free. I did not have to pay for my coach, my costume, my skates. I felt winning was giving back to the possibilities that were there for me. That's where the extra pressure came from.
Katarina Witt (1:09 PM)
It would be great if you watched "The Diplomat" tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Thanks for being great fans. Watch the rest of the series as well. They are great 9 athletes that ESPN is telling their stories.
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