This new house is Witt's retreat these days during rare breaks in a breakneck schedule. Fourteen years after her first Olympic gold medal, skating is still "where my passion is," says Witt, who continues to perform in 60 U.S. cities each year with the Stars on Ice revue). But at 32, she occasionally leaves the ice to test the waters beyond. In August she appeared on HBO's Arli$$, reprising a part she first created last year as a high-powered sports agent. Now she has a small role in director John Frankenheimer's new action-thriller Ronin, playing a skating Mafia moll opposite Robert De Niro's gun-for-hire. It is her second American movie credit, following a blink-quick walk-on in 1996's Jerry Maguire. The film provided her "my 15 seconds of fame," Witt says, laughing. Ronin "will be my two minutes."
This month the camera time will grow when she visits cable's Home Shopping Network to make two pitches—in almost fluent American-accented English—for her new line of Katarina Witt jewelry. Fortunately, "I love working," she says. "I'm a strong woman who knows what I want and what to do."
For most of her life, of course, that meant figure skating. Period. As East Germany's gold medalist in the 1984 and '88 Olympics and a four-time world champion, she was the sport's alpha star for most of the past decade. Then, in 1989, came the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of East Germany. To some critics in her homeland, it suddenly seemed as if socialism had left no Marx on Witt at all. "It was amazing," acknowledges close friend and longtime manager Elizabeth Gottmund, "how quickly Katarina learned to work the market system."
Thanks to her endorsements, acting (she has also appeared in European skating films like Carmen) and other pursuits, Witt has made herself financially sound. Her continuing seven-hour-a-day workouts during the skating season (and the fact that "I never eat three full meals a day") have kept her physically fit. Observers will be able to judge the naked truth of that statement late this fall, when Witt is scheduled to appear nude in a Playboy pictorial. "They've been after me for 10 years," she says. "I thought, 'Skating is such a fairy-tale sport, why not be a little controversial?' " Pause. "Besides, maybe my boyfriend wanted to have beautiful pictures of me for when I'm on the road!"
Witt met her Berlin-based beau, Marcus Herrmann, 32, who manages a hard-rock band called Knorr Kartorr, two years ago on a blind date. The couple, who share a lot of the same music-industry pals, are not thinking about marriage, insists Witt ("I love what I'm doing, and I love my independence"). But she can tell that her parents—Katja, 58, a retired physiotherapist, and Manfred, 60, formerly an official with a farm collective—would "like to have a toddler on the ground."
For now, Witt is content placing a willkommen mat there for "friends and family" at her new home. Although she still keeps a two-bedroom flat in Berlin for visits to the big city, this countrified setting, where her family used to vacation, is where her journeys always end these days. There may be more acting roles and bigger projects in the future, Witt says, gazing out her living-room window. But if there aren't, "You sit here and look at the flowers and think, 'Oh, I've got everything I wanted.' "
David Cobb Craig
Nina Biddle outside Berlin