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L E’s Stories – “The Sparrow From Minsk Who Changed Women’s Gymnastics Forever” – The Story Of Olga Korbut Of The Soviet Union

When it comes to what is referred to as “game changers” in a sport…..there is none who stands any larger that diminutive Olga Korbut….who is a former gymnast who competed for the Soviet Union….and was nicknamed the “Sparrow from Minsk”…..as she won four gold medals and two silver medals at the Summer Olympic Games….in which she competed in 1972 at Munich and 1976 at Montreal for the Soviet team….as well as being the inaugural inductee to the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1988. There are some athletes who not only have incredible athletic talent…..but also have charisma….and Olga had an abundance of both…..as her effect on a crowd equaled that of folks like Mark The Bird Fidrych…..or Broadway Joe Namath…..or Magic Johnson…..or Big Red Secretariat…..evidenced by the videos seen in this post herewith.                                                                                                                         

Olympics – 1972 – Munich Summer Games – Women’s Gymnastics Special – Soviet Gymnast Olga Korbut Charms The World – On BBC Specia| Faster, Higher, Stronger

                                                                                                                                                                                      While Korbut retired from gymnastics in 1977 at the age of 22, which was considered young for gymnasts of the period, Korbut’s influence and legacy in gymnastics was far reaching. Korbut’s 1972 Olympic performances are widely credited as redefining gymnastics, changing the sport from emphasizing ballet and elegance to acrobatics as well as changing popular opinion of gymnastics from a niche sport to one of the most popular sports in the world.                                                                                                                      

Olympics – 1972 – Munich Olympics – Women’s Gymnastics Floor Exercise – USSR Olga Korbut                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Olga was born in Grodno….and started training at age 8….after entering a Belarusian sports school headed by coach Renald Knysh at age 9. There, Korbut’s first trainer was Elena Volchetskaya, an Olympic gold medalist (1964), but she was moved to Knysh’s group a year later. Initially he found her “lazy and capricious” but he also saw potential in her great talent, unusually supple spine, and charisma. With him, she learned a difficult backward somersault on the balance beam. She debuted this at a competition in the USSR in 1969. The same year, Korbut completed a backflip-to-catch on the uneven bars; this was the first backward release move ever performed by a woman on bars.                                              

Olympics & Gymnastics – 1992 – The Olympics On The Record Special – How Olga Korbut Inspired a Generation of Gymnasts

                                                                                                                                                                                She finished fifth at her first competition in the 1969 USSR championships, where she was allowed to compete as a 15-year-old. The next year, she won a gold medal in the vault. Due to illness and injury, she was unable to compete in many of the competitions before the 1972 Summer Olympics.  At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Korbut’s acrobatics and open high-level gymnastics brought her much fame. To this day, the back tuck and Korbut Flip are still very popular….as evidenced by 2003 world beam champion Fan Ye…..who performed both in her routine.                                                                                                                                   

Olympics – 1972 – Munich Summer Games Special Highlights – Incredible Performance From Olga Korbut ” The Darling Of Munich”

                                                                                                                                                                          During the Olympics, Korbut was one of the favorites for the all-around after her dynamic performance in the team competition; however, she missed her mount on bars three times and the title went to teammate Ludmilla Tourischeva. That said, Korbut won three gold medals for the balance beam, floor exercise, and team competitions. In one of the most controversial finishes of all time, she took a silver medal in the uneven bars. Korbut’s first attempt at her uneven bars routine was marred by several mistakes which all but ended her chances of winning a gold medal in the all-around. The next day, Korbut repeated the same routine in the event finals, although this time successfully. After the boards displayed a score of 9.8, the audience began to whistle and shout vulgar remarks at the judges in disapproval, believing her score to be too low. This carried on for several minutes but the judges refused to change her score.                                                                                                                                                                        

Olympics – 1972 – Munich Olympic Games – ABC’s Jim McKay Presents Highlights Of USSR Gymnast Olga Korbut

                                                                                                                                                                            Korbut is most famous for her uneven bars and balance beam routines, as well as her charismatic performances that captivated audiences. Her Olympic achievement earned her ABC’s Wide World of Sports title of Athlete of the Year. In 1973, she won the Russian and World Student (i.e., University) Games, and a silver medal in the all-around at the European Championships.                                                               

Olympics – 1972 – Munich Summer Games – Featuring USSR Olga Korbut’s Uneven Bars Routine In Slow Motion

                                                                                                                                                                                      At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Soviet coaches and officials had designated Korbut as the woman who could beat the Romanian prodigy, Nadia Comăneci, but Korbut was injured and her performances in the games were sub-par. She was overshadowed not only by Comăneci, but also by her own teammate Nellie Kim.  She did collect a team gold medal, and an individual silver medal for the balance beam.                                                                                                                                                                     

Olympics – 1976 – Montreal Summer Games – Featuring USSR Olga Korbut’s Balance Beam Routine

                                                                                                                                                                                      Korbut, who has won four Olympic gold medals, is best known for her move, the “Korbut flip”, a backflip performed on the uneven parallel bars, starting from a standing position on the high bar and then catching the same bar from below on the under swing. She was also achieved the flip on the 4″ balance bar onto the straddle position and later the flip landing on her feet. Named after Korbut since she was the first to perform the skill at an international competition in 1972, the move has since been made illegal in the Olympic Code of Points.                                                                                                                          

Gymnastics – 1969 – Soviet National Gymnastics Competition – Featuring Olga Korbut On The Balance Beam

After the 1972 Olympic competition, she also met United States President Richard Nixon at the White House. About the meeting, Korbut said: “He told me that my performance in Munich did more for reducing the political tension during the Cold War between our two countries than the embassies were able to do in five years.”  In addition to greatly publicizing gymnastics worldwide, she also contributed to a marked change in the tenor of the sport itself. Prior to 1972, the athletes were generally older and the focus was on elegance rather than acrobatics. In the decade after Korbut’s Olympic debut, the emphasis was reversed.  Korbut, in her 1972, gold-medal Olympics, at 4 ft 11 in (1.50 m) and 82 pounds (37 kg), exemplified the deliberate and purposeful trend toward smaller women in the sport. 

 

Olympics – 1972 – Munich Summer Games – Women’s Gymnastics Uneven Bars – Featuring USSR Olga Korbut – With ABC’s Jim McKay Behind The Mike

As you will see in many of my L E’s Stories posts….the subject of the posts are folks that had a significant influence on the sport they played or participated in…..as evidenced by this post and videos seen herewith….for The Sparrow of Minsk was certainly on of those special athletes……cuz simply put, she transformed the sport of women’s gymnastics from a “ballet based art form” to an exciting fan sport chocked full of “dangerous disciplines”……which contributed to a globally watched and followed sport. Simply put, Olga Korbut became the leader of the liberal gymnastics performance which would dictate women’s gymnastics for the next half-century…..and for this and more, she certainly deserves her spotlight here at ImaSportsphile

 

Olympics – 1972 – Munich Olympic Games – Women’s Gymnastics Uneven Bars Final – USSR Olga Korbut – In Slow Motion

 

 

 

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