Luding-Rothenburger first competed in speed skating at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, finishing 12th in the 500m and 18th in the 1,000m events. She entered the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo as the world record holder at 500m, and proceeded to win the gold medal in that event. She also placed fifth at 1,000m.
Four years later, at the Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Luding-Rothenberger earned the silver medal in the 500m by finishing a mere two hundredths of a second behind Bonnie Blair. Four days later, Luding-Rothenberger won the gold medal at 1,000m and broke the world record.
Her coach, Ernst Luding (whom she married in 1988) had persuaded her to take up cycling during the off season from skating. She quickly became a strong contender in this event, winning gold in the match sprint competition at the 1986 world championships. During the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Christa Luding-Rothenburger made Olympic history by earning the silver medal in the 1,000m match sprint seven months after she had triumphed at the Olympic Winter Games. At the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville she added a bronze medal in the 500m speed skating event and placed eighth in the 1,000m.