Thursday, May 31, 2007
Olga Korbut was born on May 16th, 1955 in Grodno (Hrodna), Belarus. At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, her acrobatics and open display of emotion and raw enthusiasm captivated the Munich audiences, and there she became the first person ever to do a backward somersault on the balance beam. Korbut also was the first to do standing backward somersalt on bars, and a back somersalt to swingdown (Korbut Flip) on beam. During the Olympics, Korbut was one of the favorites for the all-around after her dynamic performance in the team competition. But memorably, she fell from bars and the title went to her teammate Ludmilla Tourischeva. Notwithstanding, she ended up winning three gold medals, for the balance beam, floor exercise and team, and one silver medal in the uneven bars. Korbut's Olympic achievement earned her the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. The Soviet coaches and officials had designated Olga as the woman who could beat Romanian prodigy Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Olympic Games at Montreal. But Olga was injured and her performances were under-par. She was overshadowed not only by Comaneci but by her own teammate Nellie Kim. But she did collect a team gold medal and an individual silver medal for the balance beam. Korbut graduated from the Grodno Pedagogical Institute in 1977 and retired from Olympic competition.
Korbut married Leonid Bortkevich, who was a member of a popular Belarusan folk band. In 1991, Korbut and her family immigrated to the United States. She now lives in Scottsdale (Arizona, USA). For the official Olga Korbut website, click here.