Fast Talk: Katarina Witt
Published: May 2009
Katarina Witt was born to ice-skate. She began her career at the age of five, at a sports club in Chemnitz, Germany, and since then has traversed the globe on the way to two Olympic gold medals and a bevy of World and European championships. She has also appeared in major motion pictures (she shares screen time with Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire and with Robert De Niro in Ronin), won an Emmy (for her starring role in HBO's Carmen on Ice in 1990), created her own line of jewelry, and written a fitness book. On November 30, she'll be back on the ice with Smucker's Stars on Ice, which will visit 61 cities over 3 1/2 months. Travel + Leisure caught up with Witt in the middle of a pre-tour training session and asked her about her favorite skating moments, what it was like to take part in the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics closing ceremony, and how she keeps in shape while touring.
1) Where are you now?Why are you there?Any place else you would rather be?
Right now, I am in Simsbury, Connecticut, rehearsing for the upcoming Smucker's Stars on Ice tour. As exciting as everything is, getting ready for a new tour, I wouldn't mind being on a beach somewhere. The summer just flew by and I feel as if I didn't have a break. And even though I love my work, a secluded beach sounds pretty good right now.
2) How often do you travel?Where are you off to next?
I travel about two-thirds of the year, mostly for work here in the States. After we finish rehearsals, I am going back to Germany for some more shows. You can probably guess that I have built up quite a few frequent-flier miles.
3) You are a two-time Olympic champion, four-time World champion, and six-time European champion. Which one of those wins means the most to you, and why?Did the destinations where you won them add to the experience?
Every victory is something special, but there are a few that stand out in my memory. The World Championships in 1987 in Cincinnati and, of course, both Olympic victories are very special. I will never forget Sarajevo, because it was my first Gold Medal and because of what has happened there. Winning my second Gold Medal in Calgary, Canada, was memorable as well, because it was great to win it in a country where skating is so popular.
4) You have previously participated in the closing ceremonies of several Olympics. What was it like to be a part of them at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake was wonderful, and I just had a blast. I had a chance to skate to KISS with Kristi Yamaguchi, and I think I had a smile that was hung behind my ears. I was just laughing the whole time, thinking that I was out there in the closing ceremony with all the athletes in the stadium and the world watching, hanging out with KISS. It was very surreal and so much fun.
5) How has the way you travel changed from when you were an amateur competing in the Olympics and World Championships, now that you are a professional traveling with Smucker's Stars on Ice?
When I was an amateur, I always traveled with trainers or team members and usually in coach class. Luckily, my travels are much more comfortable and normal now. I can usually pack the morning that I am going to travel. Even if I am going to the States for five weeks and my plane leaves at 8:00 a.m., I can pack at 6:00 a.m. and be fine. Traveling has become such a part of my life that it's nothing special anymore, which, somehow, is kind of sad. But it's just like other people driving to work in the morning.
6) You will be embarking on a 3 1/2 month tour through 61 U.S. cities with Smucker's Stars on Ice. What city are you most looking forward to skating in?
I hope that one day I can travel more for pleasure and can pick some of the cities I visit. I haven't been to South America or South Africa. Now I always travel for work, but when I'm not working I love to visit San Francisco and Sun Valley, Idaho. I skate in those two cities every year and I really enjoy it.
7) How do you pack for a 61-city tour?Are there any items you cannot travel without?
It's quite difficult to pack for this because we will be traveling in every different kind of climate. And I always end up with too much because I shop for new clothes along the way. I do have a system for how I pack though. I have a garment bag for my nicer things, a big suitcase for my everyday outfits, and another bag for my workout clothes.
8) Knowing that you have to perform nearly every day over the length of the tour, how will you keep healthy throughout?Any tips on how to stay fit while on a road trip?
It is very important to do my daily workout routine. Even though I am on the ice so much, I still need to go running in the morning or get on a bike. I also do a lot of exercises that work my back and my stomach.
9) In your opinion, what are the best places in the world to skate: indoors, outdoors, frozen lakes in the countryside, public parks, etc.?
Mostly, I just love to perform, so it doesn't really matter where I am. When I am in front of an audience, and the spotlight comes on and I have a beautiful piece of music to perform to—that is the place I most like to skate.
10) What is your favorite souvenir from your travels?
I used to get souvenirs from almost all my travels, but when I run across some of them now I wonder what I was thinking when I bought them. Most of them are just hidden away in boxes.
Interviewed by Robert Maniaci