Kania-Enke, Karin (1961—)

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Kania-Enke, Karin (1961—)

East German speed skater. Name variations: skated as Karin Enke and Karin Kania; Karin Enke Kania. Born in Dresden, East Germany, on June 20, 1961; attended Dresden Technical University; married second husband Rudolf Kania (a school sports instructor); children: son Sasha (b. 1985).

Winner of nine Olympic medals:

gold (1980), silver (1984), and bronze (1988) in the women's 500 meters; gold (1984) and silver in the women's 1,500 meters (1988); gold (1984) and silver in the 1,000 meters (1988); silver (1984) and bronze (1988) in the 3,000 meters; holder of six World sprint titles (1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987) and two World all-around championships (1986, 1987).

In the beginning, East German Karin Kania-Enke was a figure skater. In 1975, at 14, she placed 4th in the junior national championships; two years later, she placed 9th. But injury and illness plagued her career, along with her considerable growth. At 5'9¼" and 158 pounds, the mature Kania-Enke was a large woman. Switching from figure to speed skating, she learned the crouched stance and the knack of changing lanes in a matter of weeks. "All that smiling when it hurt in figure skating … was not for me," Kania-Enke said, delighted that she no longer had to please judges.

From the first, it was apparent that Kania-Enke was a natural. In West Allis, Wisconsin, in 1980, she won the World sprint championship (Leah Poulos Mueller of the U.S. came in second). In the 500-meters at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Games held a week later, Kania-Enke won the gold medal and set an Olympic record

at 41.78, despite the fact that she was only an alternate on the team. She then came in 4th in the 1,000-meters. In 1981 in Grenoble, she repeated her win in the World sprint championships, winning again in 1983 and 1984 after losing to Natalia Petruseva of the Soviet Union in 1982. Kania-Enke would pick up two more gold medals in the World sprint championships in 1986 and 1987.

At the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, Kania-Enke led a record-shattering sweep of the four gold medals in women's speedskating for the German Democratic Republic. Nicknamed "Monster Woman" by awe-struck American rivals, she won the gold in the 1,000- (in which she set an Olympic record of 1:21.61) and 1,500-meters (in which she set a world record of 2:03.42, top-ping the 2:04.4 record set by Petruseva in 1983). Kania-Enke also won the silver in the 500 meters while her East German teammate Christa Rothenburger won the gold at a time of 41:02. When Kania-Enke won the silver in the 3,000- meters, another teammate, longtime friend Andrea Mitscherlich Schöne , took the gold at 4:24.79. The GDR women bettered the Olympic record in all four events.

In Calgary, in 1988, Bonnie Blair came in 1st in the 500, while Kania-Enke placed 3rd; and Christa Rothenburger placed 1st in the 1,000, while Kania-Enke took another silver. Kania-Enke also picked up a silver in the 1,500 meters. One of the best-liked athletes on the winter circuit, Kania-Enke retired in 1988, intent on opening a beauty salon in her hometown of Dresden.


Markel, Robert, Nancy Brooks, and Susan Markel. For the Record: Women in Sports. NY: World Almanac, 1985.

Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia