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Throwback: Rothenburger swaps skates for wheels in unique Winter & Summer Games double

CALGARY, CANADA - FEBRUARY 1988: Gold medal winner Christa Rothenburger of East Germany stands on the podium flanked by [left] Kania of East Germany and [right] Bonnie Blair of the USA during the medal ceremony for the 1000 metres Speedskating event at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in February 1988 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Mike Powell/Getty Images)

February 26, 1988

Nearly three decades on, undoubtedly the date remains etched on the mind of Christa Luding-Rothenburger for part one of what remains an historic and unique Olympic double.

Then Rothenburger, before marrying her coach Ernst Luding, she went on to win medals at both the Winter and Summer Games in the same year in 1988.

The decision to switch the Winter Games, so they no longer clash in the same year as their summer equivalent, means that incredible feat is highly unlikely to be matched.

The amazing backdrop to the double is that speed skater Rothenburger only took up the sport of cycling in 1980 at the suggestion of Luding as a way to vary her training. The plan was to improve her strength and endurance in the build-up to the season, and not with any great velodrome glory in mind.

As it turned out, she was as proficient on two wheels as she was on two skates, although East Germany’s sporting authorities were initially reluctant to let her double up.

In 1986, she competed at the World Cycling Championships and won sprint gold on the track, and silver the following year.

But 1988 was the career high. On February 26 of that year, she clinched gold in the 1000m speed skating event in Calgary, a Games at which she also won silver in the 500m, agonisingly missing out on the gold by just 0.02 seconds.

Then seven months later she lined up at the velodrome in Seoul, South Korea, for the sprint event, winning a silver medal.

She narrowly lost out on the gold to Erika Salumäe, who was competing under the Russian flag in what was the only event for women’s track cycling.

That proved Luding-Rothenburger’s last major championship cycling medal, although she did skate on for another four years, winning an Olympic bronze at Albertville 1992 before retiring after that year’s World Championships.


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