Rothenburger-Luding, Christa (1959—)
Rothenburger-Luding, Christa (1959—)
East German cyclist and speedskater. Name variations: Christa Luding; Christa Luding-Rothenburger. Born Christa Rothenburger in Weisswasser, German Democratic Republic, on December 4, 1959; married Ernst Luding (a skating coach), in 1988.
Won a gold medal in the 500-meter speedskating race in the Olympic Games in Sarajevo (1984); was the World sprint-skating champion (1984, 1988); became World champion in the 1,000-meter speedskating race (1986); won a silver medal in the 500-meter speedskating race and a gold medal in the 1,000-meter race in the Olympic Games in Calgary (1988); won a silver medal in the 1,000-meter cycling race in the Olympic Games in Seoul (1988); became the first athlete to win medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games in the same year (1988); won a bronze medal in the 500-meter speedskating race in the Winter Olympics in Albertville (1992).
Christa Rothenburger-Luding became known as an "athlete for all seasons," one of those rare people who competes at a world-class level in two different sports, winning impressive victories in both speedskating and bicycling. Her first sport was speedskating; but early in her training, her coach (and later husband) Ernst Luding pressed her to take up cycling during the off-season. Initially, she was not enthusiastic, later saying, "I was convinced that as soon as I tried to ride, I would undoubtedly topple right over," but her misgivings proved false. Since both sports require strength and speed, she took to cycling readily. After the East German Sports Federation finally granted her permission to do so, she began competing in both speedskating and cycling.
The 24-year-old East German athlete made an explosive entry onto the Olympic scene in 1984, when she won the 500-meter speedskating event at the Winter Games in Sarajevo with a time of 41.02 seconds. The 1984 World sprintskating champion became the World champion in the 1,000-meter speedskating event two years later—the same year she upset Estonian Erika Salumae at her first international cycling competition to take the gold medal. These victories were a preview to her stellar Olympic showing in 1988 when she skated to a gold medal in the 1,000-meter event at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. She narrowly missed earning a second gold medal in the 500-meter race when she came in second to American Bonnie Blair by just two one-hundredths of a second.
The 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, provided Rothenburger-Luding with the unique opportunity to win gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Only one other athlete had accomplished the feat: American boxer Eddie Eagan had won a gold medal in bobsledding 12 years after winning the gold in lightweight boxing in 1920. However, Rothenburger-Luding's rival, Salumae, was also competing in the women's cycling 1,000-meter sprint, which was on the Olympic program for the first time that year. After three days of competition, the only two women still in the running for the gold were Salumae, the world champion in 1987, and Rothenburger-Luding, the world champion in 1986, setting up a historic Olympic showdown. In the final heat of the 1,000-meter race, the pair battled to the finish. With just 200 meters to go, Rothenburger-Luding was in the lead, but Salumae edged forward until the two were even, wheel to wheel. Just before the finish line, Salumae pushed ahead and won by only a split second. Rothenburger-Luding was philosophical about the loss. "It was so close," she said. "After the final race I talked with my husband Ernst. We both agreed that the difference was only six inches at the finish." Despite coming in second, at age 28 Rothenburger-Luding became the first athlete ever to win medals at the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year—an accomplishment that became impossible to equal after the two-year shift of the Winter Games in 1994 permanently split the Summer and Winter Games. She went on to win yet another medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, taking the bronze in the 500-meter speedskating event.
Grace & Glory: A Century of Women in the Olympics. Washington, DC: Multi-media Partners, 1996.
100 Greatest Moments in Olympic History. Los Angeles, CA: GPG, 1995.
Kelly Winters , freelance writer, Bayville, New York