Sports Letters: Wisdom blinded, by Witt's charms

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Sir: What prompts the Independent to take such an in-depth and repeated interest in Katarina Witt, as well as publishing huge photos of her on consecutive days? This skater, elegant and alluring as she is, scarcely seems to merit the attention. By today's technical standards, Witt is really little more than a solo ice-dancer, able to perform only the two most basic triple jumps, the salchow and the toe-loop. Such a standard rightly won her Olympic gold in 1984, but even six years ago at the 1988 Olympics, when the level of women's technical skating was considerably lower than now, she was being beaten on the technical mark. She did not win the free programme, and had the current marking system (with no figures) been in operation then, she would have won only the silver medal.

These days, Witt's limited jumping ability places her way below the top performers, who all include the much more difficult triple lutz, flip and loop as routine. In last season's World Championships there were no competitors in the top eight who did not successfully perform at least some of these jumps, and the top three women landed no fewer than 14 of them.

If Witt finishes in the top six at Lillehammer, it will be only because the judges have shown a sentimental leniency to her technical shortcomings, as well as a weakness for her indisputable seductiveness.



Swindon, Wilts

20 December