Two-time Olympic gold-medalist Witt ends ice-show career with 'Carmen'

Updated: March 5, 2008, 1:40 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BERLIN -- Two-time Olympic champion Katarina Witt ended her show career on ice with a final performance as Carmen -- the role that defined her greatest triumph.

[+] EnlargeKatarina Witt
AP Photo/Rudi BlahaKatarina Witt became famous for her routine to Bizet's "Carmen," which won her the gold medal at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Witt drew thunderous applause in Hannover on the last night of her farewell tour Tuesday, capping her six routines with bowls of fire around the rink.

"I have to say, honestly, that you prepare a tour like this and think of everything," Witt said. "Then I totally forgot to think of what I would say at the very end. Maybe just: Thank you."

The 42-year-old former East German, dubbed "the most beautiful face of socialism" by Time magazine, drew worldwide fame by beating American rival Debi Thomas at the end of the Cold War in a politically charged duel for the 1988 Olympic gold.

That was the springboard to a professional career for one of the most successful figure skaters in the United States and Europe. Tours with fellow gold medalist Brian Boitano and "Holiday on Ice" followed, along with an Emmy for the 1989 film "Carmen on Ice."

The contest at the Calgary Olympics against Thomas was dubbed the "Battle of the Carmens," because both chose to skate their long program to Georges Bizet's opera.

Witt prevailed and joined Sonja Henie as the only female figure skaters to successfully defend their Olympic titles.

When she retired from competition, her medal haul included golds from four world and six consecutive European championships.

Her first three years on tour were spent with Boitano and their popular show "Witt and Boitano Skating." They sold out New York's Madison Square Garden, the first time for an ice show at the venue in a decade.

Witt on Tuesday showed a video montage of her career, dating back to when longtime coach Jutta Mueller groomed the 5-year-old for ice skating glory. In her show, she revisited another famous routine to the Pete Seeger folk song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."

Witt performed an arrangement of the peace song at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, during a short-lived comeback in competition. The music was directed toward the people of war-torn Sarajevo -- the site of her first Olympic gold medal in 1984.

Witt said leaving the ice for the last time was easier than expected.

"I'm doing well," she said. "Not as many tears fell as I maybe feared."

Witt also had roles on screens big and small; she appeared as herself in the film "Jerry Maguire" and played skater Natacha Kirilova in the Robert De Niro film "Ronin." She also had a part in an episode of TV's "Frasier" in 1996, according to imdb.com.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.