Champion in Winter and Summer Alike
She skates as fast as she pedals, and triumphed at both the Olympic Winter and Summer Games. Born 48 years ago today in the city of Weisswasser in the former East Germany, Christa Luding’s Olympic history exists in two sports, five editions of the Games and multiple stunning laps.
On track for two Games and three medals in one year
For Christa’s first appearance at the Olympic Games, she donned skates in Lake Placid in 1980 in the 500m and 1000m speed skating events. The podium had to wait until the next edition in Sarajevo, where she took her first Olympic title in the 500m. Stronger and stronger, in February 1988 in Calgary, she won the silver medal in the 500m and gold in the 1000m, events in which the athletes must achieve the best time in one round to win.
In September of the same year, on the other side of the world in Seoul, Christa was at the Games on a bike. In the sprint event in track cycling, she began a series of tactical races. She got on her bike 10 times to get through the qualification rounds, reach the final of the tournament and take the silver medal.
Calgary – Seoul: over 8,500km apart, a seven-month interval and the same Christa Luding, who can move as fast on two wheels as on blades.
Albertville, 1992: Christa took part in her fifth and last Games where she won a bronze medal in the 500m and did her last lap of the Olympic track four days later in the 1000m, in which she placed eighth.
The art of going round in ovals
Speed skating and track cycling are two disciplines with a long Olympic tradition: both were on the programme at the first Winter and first Summer Olympic Games: in Chamonix in 1924 for speed skating and in Athens in 1896 for cycling.
While the track is oval in both disciplines, the length differs: 400m for speed skating, between 250m and 400m for the Olympic velodrome. The aerodynamic properties, which are reflected in the braced position of skaters or the profile of the bikes, are a determining factor in both cases. Powerful thighs, a strong heart and unfailing balance are the qualities that Christa combines to rocket along both the ice and the track.
Christa Luding is among the small circle of Olympic athletes who have won medals at both the Winter and Summer Games, just like Edward Eagan (boxing & bobsleigh), Jacob Tullin Thams (sailing & skiing) and Clara Hughes (cycling & skating).
Though the skater-cyclist returned from the Olympic Games with five medals in her pocket, she also won 10 at the World Championships, including two in cycling. In speed skating, she also improved on eight world records in the 500m and 1000m. Did Christa Luding take the motto citius, altius, fortius literally?
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