Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Monday, November 21, 2005


1984 and 1988 Olympic Champion Katarina Witt is having a very busy Fall. She will present a Christmas show in Prague, participate in a "Cheer Up" media campaign (really!) in her native Germany, and promote her November 2005 book, "Only With Passion: Figure Skating's Most Winning Champion On Competition And Life."

Her co-writer for the latter is E.M. Swift, who helped another two-time Olympic Champion, Ekaterina Gordeeva, become a best-selling author in 1996 with the publication of “My Sergei.".

“It is not an autobiography,” Swift revealed about the Witt project, “But an inspirational book directed to women, especially young women athletes. The book definitely discusses both Katarina's life while she was competing, her relationship with her coach, Frau Mueller, her thoughts on men, relationships and marriage, and her professional life after her competitive career came to an end. She is a very bright, very creative, very successful businesswoman, in addition to her estimable skating credentials. She has a very soft, domestic side that comes through as well. Katarina and I got together for a day in Boston and a week in Berlin, and during our first day of work she came up with the idea (for the book) that she was entertaining a young figure skater at her Berlin apartment who was visiting her seeking advice on skating, on training, on boyfriends, on parents, on life as a teenaged athlete. This young figure skater would be a fictional composite of several young skaters Katarina knew. The challenge, of course, was to make the young visitor real. I think we eventually succeeded. That was something I was very much involved in, creating a realistic visitor to whom Katarina would offer counsel. Katarina was very much part of that creative process, too, deciding what they would do together, what they should discuss, even deciding on what they should argue about. It was actually a fascinating and very enjoyable collaborative process. We worked seven days for about 6 hours a day. Then I went home and wrote it.”

Though “My Sergei” hit #1 on the “New York Times” bestseller list the week of December 22, 1996, no other skating book has managed to duplicate that feat – or even make the list -- in almost a decade.

“With Katia's book, we caught lightning in a bottle,” Swift mused. “It was, at its core, not a skating book, but a love story. She was a very compelling, lovely, interesting person the public felt tremendous sympathy toward and curiosity about. And the elements of a great love story were all there. That's timeless. I'm not surprised some of the more recent books on skating haven't been a commercial success, since the sport, in general, has been overexposed. Katarina is a different case, however. She has been in the public eye for the last 21 years. Men love her. Women admire her. She comes from a different culture, East Germany, which people should be curious about. And she was one of the first women athletes who managed to retain her femininity, something that continues to be a struggle for women athletes today. She is a wonderful, extraordinary role model who was years ahead of her time. Indeed, she's as modern a woman as I've ever met--independent, strong, talented, yet vulnerable and feminine. She addresses these seeming inconsistencies directly and compellingly. She's a real person, not some superwoman. I think there's a market for that. There's a lot in this book both for her fans, and for daughters of her fans who are looking for direction in their life. I'm hopeful that the book will find an audience beyond the figure skating market.”


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