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Behold The Shining Star Of The G.D.R.
Rick Reilly
January 20, 1986
Lovely Katarina Witt, the world and Olympic figure skating champion, is a luminary in her hometown of Karl-Marx-Stadt
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January 20, 1986

Behold The Shining Star Of The G.d.r.

Lovely Katarina Witt, the world and Olympic figure skating champion, is a luminary in her hometown of Karl-Marx-Stadt

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At home, Witt is much the same. Does this sound like teenagers you know? "I'm kind of an independent person," she says. "Sometimes I'll be with my friends and I'll just decide to jump in my car and go somewhere. Before you know it, my friends are saying, 'Where did Kati go?' And I'll have just taken off!"

During an interview for a G.D.R. TV educational special called AHA (the idea is you watch the show and at the end say, "Aha!") on the history of figure skating, there was this:

Q: Kati, doesn't skating have to do with physics?

A: Well, no, I think not so much with physics.

Q: Yes, but what you mean to say is skating is a scientific development, right?

A: No, I think it's not so much of a scientific development.

His interview hijacked, the broadcaster gave up and looked for somebody more malleable, while Katarina skated merrily off. A star is a star is a star, even if star is a dirty word in the Eastern bloc.

"In our system," Müller says, "we do not raise stars. Whether in sports, business or any other sector, we don't create them. It's part of our education." The G.D.R. may not believe in stars, but have you seen Katarina's tub lately?

Here are other star signs: In the G.D.R. you apply for a car and it takes 10 years to get it. You want an apartment? It can take nearly as long. You want to visit the West? No problem: When you're 65, you can visit the West. Witt, on the other hand, has her own apartment, has the Lada and has traipsed the globe. Unless she applied for the apartment and the car at 10, she is getting the star treatment.

But Witt is not just a star, she is a breathing, breathtaking billboard for the G.D.R., and Katarina knows it.

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