J. Barry Mittan, the Electronic Photojournalist

A perfect Match -- Kati Winkler and Rene Lohse by J. Barry Mittan (1995)

German ice dancers Kati Winkler and Rene Lohse have never danced on ice with anyone else, nor do they intend to do so. Winkler, who is from Chemnitz and Lohse, from East Berlin, were both selected in kindergarten as "having the right temperament for skating. To be chosen in kindergarten was the way to find new talents in sports in East Germany." Both began skating when they were 4, although no one else in their families skates. Lohse gave up skating for other sports for two years at age 12. He began again as an ice dancer when Winkler asked him to be her partner when they were both 14. She had met Lohse at singles events and then was enrolled at the same school when she moved to Berlin at age 10. Although Winkler enjoyed skating singles, a bad back hampered her jumping ability so she turned to dance. It's a perfect match for the two tall blondes. Winkler calls Lohse "my best friend. I can tell him anything. He is always pushing me forward." Lohse reciprocates: "She is very confident, a very competitive skater who is better in competition than in practice. She is very easy to skate with, especially since she is so pretty."

Both of the skaters enjoy dancing off ice. Winkler especially likes disco dancing although she "likes every type of dancing." They both enjoy bringing ballroom dances to the ice, as seen in their 1994-95 quick step, acclaimed by many as the truest adaptation of the dance to skating. Waltzes are their favorite compulsories, although both also enjoy the Yankee Polka. Winkler notes "We are more the type for waltzes. Our skating is too soft for the paso, which is very difficult for us. We don't have the right look for the paso. Krylova and Ovsiannikov have the strongest paso we have seen." On the other hand, they "like the mambo very much" which is why they have incorporated it into their free dance to Mambo Number 8, Historia de un Amor, and El Mambo. They think its one of their best.

The couple is still developing their own style. Among their role models are the Finnish dancers Susanna Rahkomo and Petri Kokko "because they are very kindly people, successful but natural." Lohse watches Kokko's compulsories to learn ways to improve his techniques. Winkler and Lohse have enjoyed the events on the Champions Series of Figure Skating: "They are really hard competitions. We can see our mistakes and we have learned a lot." The couple train in Berlin under coach Knut Schubert. Their choreography is by Diana Goolsbey. After the skaters select the basic colors to go with the music of their programs, the costumes are designed by Annelise Pulst. All of their costumes are handmade by Carola Schochow.

Ice dancing is a relatively new discipline in Germany, where there were no ice dancing teams for many years. When they began in 1988, "It was a hard time because for 18 years there was no ice dancing in East Germany and we were the first who started it again." Winkler and Lohse have had to overcome not only the difficulties created by the absence of an ice dance community but also the emigration of ice dancers from other countries to Germany. Jennifer Goolsbee, from the United States, won the German Nationals several times with Hendryk Schamberger. Now that Schamberger has retired to complete his medical education, Goolsbee is now training with Samuel Gezoljan of Belarus and plans to compete in German Nationals as soon as ISU and German requirements have been met.

Winkler and Lohse plan to "continue as long as we are successful." So far their biggest accomplishment was a fourth place finish at the 1994 Skate America in Pittsburg, where they skated a perfect quick step in the original dance and a gorgeous exhibition program. The couple has already reached one goal, competing at Worlds in 1995 in Birmingham, where they finished 19th. Both skaters are looking forward to the 1996 Worlds in Edmonton. They've enjoyed skating at Skate Canada in 1994 and 1995. Future skating goals include winning the German Nationals (after finishing second three of the last four years) and skating in the Olympics in either 1998 or 2002. After that both skaters plan non-skating careers. Winkler is employed in a management training/apprenticeship program for Mercedes Benz, working in different areas of the company at different times. Her one side trip at Skate America was a visit to the Ford Museum. Winkler plans to major in economics at the university and perhaps get a job in sports marketing. Lohse is in his fourth year at Humboldt University in Berlin, studying physical education, with an eye to managing a recreation or sports training center.

Work, school and skating, plus weight training, ballet, and conditioning take up most of their time, but the skaters make time for fun. He likes to play tennis and watch movies, while she likes to swim and visit the theatre and ballet, when she's not disco dancing. Winkler is a study in contrasts -- she enjoys both "Meg Ryan comedies" and the rap music of Boyz2Men, although she listens to soft rock or easy listening music "when feeling bad." Both enjoy "sunny and warm" climates for holidays. Says Winkler, "My favorite is Italy. Because of the Wall, we couldn't go out. That's why I haven't seen too many nice places until now. I'd like to go to Australia someday.". Winkler recently visited Turkey, while Lohse enjoyed a week in the Dominican Republic this summer.

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