Don't compare new crop to us, says Witt

Katarina Witt's wobbly steps on the ice rink were a far cry from the artistry that took her to two Olympic golds and the athleticism she said had transformed her sport in the 22 years since her last victory.


The 44-year-old German, who inspired a generation of skaters when she won back-to-back titles in 1984 and 1988, donned her blades at a public rink in Vancouver before answering questions about this year's medal hopefuls.

Changes to the scoring system after a judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games have prompted skaters to attempt more complex jump combinations with South Korean women's favourite Kim Yuna regularly performing difficult triple-triples.

"It's incredible how athletic-wise it has improved but I think you should never compare what was 10 years ago and what's now," Witt, who wore jeans rather than the daring outfits she was renowned for when she was reunited with Canada's 1988 silver medallist Elizabeth Manley for a skate-around .

"We never compared ourselves to the 60s. There is always development in the sport. Big admiration from my side for physically what they are going through."

Men have been putting more quadruple jumps in their routines, including Russia's Yevgeny Plushenko who is aiming to become the first man in more than half a century to defend his Olympic title.

As the last female skater to achieve the feat, Witt knows what it takes and was sure he was made of strong enough stuff.

"I don't think he needs any advice. He's a great competitor. He's just skated great in Tallinn at the Europeans," she said.

"He's a tough competitor and knows exactly what to do. When he goes out there he's focussed."

She declined to be drawn on who would win the women's title, saying it was too close to call.

"I'm very careful ... The Olympics has its own feeling somehow. Something all of a sudden happens."

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