The “Legends Live On” series explores the life of Olympic athletes outside sports.
With the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang on its way in February, Olympics fever has sprung for sports fans.
But what happens when the Games are over?
“Legends Live On,” a new 10-part Olympic Channel original series, shows how 15 Olympic champions — such as snowboarder Shaun White, beach volleyball player Jackie Silva, and retired sprinter Michael Johnson — inspire future generations with their work in the community.
A particularly compelling episode centers on German ice-skating champion Katarina Witt, who won back-to-back gold medals in women’s skating at the Olympic Games in 1984 and 1988.
Witt dominated women’s skating for nearly a decade and recounts in the documentary her storied Olympic career with fellow Olympians Rosalynn Sumners and Brian Boitano, as well as Olympic sports journalist Phil Hersh.
“The East Germans were putting children into programs, and she chose skating,” Boitano said, “and skating chose her.”
Witt got an early start in skating at the age of 5 and soon enrolled at the prestigious Karl-Marx-Stadt Sports Club and School for more intensive training with renowned East German skating instructor Jutta Müller, who stayed with Witt for her entire career.
The graceful, elegant, and highly competitive Witt rose to international stardom when she became the six-time European Champion in women’s skating, and then the World Champion four times from 1984 to 1988 — losing only to American Debi Thomas in 1986.
The film follows Witt’s decision to leave the sport to pursue a career in acting and her memorable comeback to competitive skating in 1994 at the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, where she skated to the anti-war ballad “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” as a tribute to war-torn Sarajevo.
“Her being there, her skating that program — it was like her final statement in front of the world,” Hersh said in the documentary.
But Witt’s statement on social justice didn’t end there. Today she uses that passion to enrich the lives of youth with physical disabilities through the Katarina Witt Foundation. Since 2005, the foundation has sponsored almost 200 national and international projects that provide medical assistance and disaster relief for children and young people in need, with a focus on improving mobility and autonomy.
When Witt recently visited a school for children with physical disabilities in Chemnitz, Germany — where her foundation has provided a wheelchair swing for the playground — she spent time with the staff and students to learn how physical activity helps improve their quality of life.
She also devotes her time to projects that promote cultural diversity and inclusion, such as the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the pro-diversity Deutsche Welle initiative, “We are Germany.”
As Witt explains on her site: “The Katarina Witt foundation is strongly involved with children with physical disabilities and especially supports sports projects. Therefore I am strongly committed to [helping].”