Home / BBC News / Top Soviet Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut sells off medals

Top Soviet Olympic gymnast Olga Korbut sells off medals

Olga Korbut after winning gold at 1972 Munich OlympicsImage copyright AP
Image caption Olga Korbut won three golds and a silver at the 1972 Munich Olympics

Olga Korbut, the Soviet gymnast who charmed the world at the 1972 Munich Olympics, has sold her medal haul and other trophies in a US auction.

The sale of seven lots – including two golds and a silver from the Munich Games – fetched $183,300 (£147,000) for Korbut. The most expensive item was her team gold ($66,000).

Born in Belarus, she moved to the US in 1991. Now 61, she lives in Arizona.

Russia’s Gazeta.ru news reports that she has had financial difficulties.

“Medals saved Korbut from hunger,” said the Gazeta.ru headline.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Today, aged 61, Korbut lives a quiet life in Arizona

In 1972, at the height of the Cold War, Korbut’s breathtaking gymnastics won millions of admirers in the West when she was just 17.

Just 1.5m tall (4ft 11), she was nicknamed “the Sparrow from Minsk”. Her captivating smile and quirky charm helped to turn her into an Olympic legend.

She won three golds (team, balance beam and floor exercise) and a silver at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In 1976 she won another gold and a silver at the Montreal Games.

Image copyright Screenshot – Heritage Auctions
Image caption One of Korbut’s gold medals from 1972

Heritage Auctions, organiser of the sale, says “there is hardly a gymnast alive who doesn’t credit this tiny force of nature for the explosion of the sport’s popularity on a global level”.

The sale items included one of her performance leotards, her 1972 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, various Soviet medals and a sports magazine cover signed by her.

The Korbut Flip was a spectacular trick that she performed on the asymmetric bars – a trick now banned from the Olympics as it is considered too dangerous.

The flip can be seen on YouTube – it begins with a somersault on the top bar.

From 1978 to 2000 Korbut was married to Leonid Bortkevich, a famous Soviet-era folk singer, with whom she moved to the US after the USSR’s collapse in 1991. She has a son called Richard.

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