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Olga Korbut Changed the Face of Gymnastics

Photo courtesy of Getty Images UK /Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images UK /Getty Images

Before Olga Korbut, took the stage in 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, gymnastics was just a sport only practiced by women. She changed the face of gymnastics and turned it into an international sensation. I remember that in the mid-seventies, every girl from the age of five all the way through their teen years wanted to participate in a gymnastics class.

I never forgot the first time I saw Olga Korbut in Seventeen Magazine, I was mesmerized by the photographs of her performance on the beam and parallel bars. She did moves that I didn’t think were humanly possible. She captivated the world with her ability to do the impossible on the parallel bars; she invented what was known as the Korbut Flip, one of the most difficult moves to have ever been attempted on the parallel bars. The Kobut Flip is considered so dangerous that it is no longer allowed in gymnastic competitions, it has been deemed illegal in the code of points system.

Olga was not only daring, but she captivated audience with her charismatic personality and her winning smile that just lit up the stadium. Considered the second best on her team, yet she managed to score of 9.9 and won three gold medals and one silver medal in the 1972 Olympic Games. In 1972 she was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the year and ABC Sports recognized Olga as the Athlete of the year. In 1976 World Championship, Olga won two gold and three silver medals and she also won one gold and one silver medal in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada.

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The Biography of One of the World most Amazing Women Athletes

Olga Korbut was born on May 16, 1955 in Grodno, Belarus in the former Soviet Union. She was the youngest of four sisters. Olga was noticed for her ability to do athletics in elementary school. Even though Olga was the smallest girl in her class, she had the ability to run faster and jump higher than all the other girls and this included many of the boys as well. Olga was also quite mischievous; she would climb fences or trees to help herself to some fruit.

When the former tree and fence climber began taking gymnastics, she fell in love with the sport. Since the beginning Olga showed tremendous promise and ability. By 1967 Olga entered the Belarusan Junior Championships, and then in the following year she took part in the Spartakiade School Championship. She managed to win several gold medals in the vault, the balance beam and uneven bars.

When Olga was fourteen she competed in her first Soviet national championship. At the championship Olga got to demonstrate her two signature moves: the Korbut Salto (which is a backward aerial summersault on the balance beam) and the Korbut Flip (a backflip on the uneven bars). These new moves were considered unorthodox and different from traditional Soviet gymnastics.

At this point, Olga still had some work to do before finally going to the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. In 1970 Olga was finished eighth in the Soviet National Competition. She was then taken as a reserve for the Soviet team to the 1970 World Competition, here she was able to demonstrate her signature moves to the judges and they were impressed. She kept progressing within the team and was able to be placed fourth for the 1971 Soviet Competition.

At the dawning of 1972, Olga had two goals to finish secondary school and to win the gold medal at the 1972 Olympic in Munich Germany. Olga went on to winning third place in the Soviet National Competitions and she also won the Riga Cup. During this time Olga finished secondary school and proceeded to win the USSR Cup. The USSR Cup competition determined Olga’s place in the Soviet Olympic team. She did an incredible job of impressing the judges and thus earned her place on the team and was headed for the 1972 Olympics.

In the 1972 Olympics Olga made gymnastics history. She won three gold medals; she was given the title of Athlete of the Year. More than anything Olga captured the hearts of audiences throughout the world with her incredible moves and winning smile. She inspired millions of girls and made gymnastics a popular sport. There was even a fan club in Los Angeles, in her honor.

In the following years Olga’s fame and accolades continued to grow. In New York she received two of her Athlete of the Year Awards; in 1974 she won five medals in a competition at Verna Bulgaria, the in 1975 Olga received the prestigious honor from United Nation of the Gold Turning Fork and was given the title of Woman of the Year. Then in 1976 she won her forth gold medal at the Montreal Olympics.

She then became the couch of the Soviet team, and she also retired from competing in 1977. Olga also went on to further her education by completing college and became the head coach of the Belarusian team. Two years later Olga gave birth to her only son, Richard. Later in 1988 Olga was given a place in the International Gymnastic Hall of Fame.

Olga and her family immigrated to the United States in 1991. She was given the honorary title of Mother of Gymnastics by NBC sports in the 90’s. Olga now lives in Scottsdale Arizona. She gives private lesson for those who wish to be gymnasts and she also teaches dance. With her signature moves and winning smile Olga has inspired a generation of girls and has won the hearts of many.

If you would like to have more information on Olga Korbut and what she is doing today, just go to Olga's Official Website.


Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 14, 2010:

Hi Marisa,

I also didn't know it was illegal, it does look dangerous. I became a fan of gymnastics in my teens because of Olga Korbut, she did the sport in way that it looked like she was flying, she was graceful and fearless at the same time. I would have loved to have seen her perform in person. She paved the way for other amazing women like Nadia, who I also admire greatly.

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Kate Swanson from Sydney on July 13, 2010:

I had no idea her flip had been made illegal. I'm not a big fan of gymnastics, which only goes to show how special Olga Korbut was - because I went out of my way to watch gymnastics when she was competing!

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 11, 2010:

Thank you tonymac04, You're right, I remember how I took gymnastics and wanted so much to be able to do even a fraction of what she could do on the high beam. She was fearless, I was always too afraid of falling or getting hurt.

Tony McGregor from South Africa on July 11, 2010:

She was so energetic and graceful. I remember also being in total awe of her skill.

Thanks for reminding me, and for a lovely tribute to a great athlete who enchanted millions.

Love and peace


Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 10, 2010:

Thank you again for your kind words epigramman. I also remember Nadia, she was amazing to watch and I loved listening to Nadia's theme. I wish young people had more mentors like these two women.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 10, 2010:

Thank you drbj, I am happy to write a tribute to a truly talented lady, that captured the imaginations of so many girls, I was one of them. She will always be special to the world of gymnastics.

epigramman on July 10, 2010:

..and women like Olga (and yourself) come along but once or twice in a lifetime ......

...I also rememeber Nadia Comanica..... remember Nadia's Theme!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on July 10, 2010:

What an appealing tribute to Olga Korbut you have written, IW! Her skill and charisma made her a delight to watch whenever she competed. Thanks for reminding us.

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 10, 2010:

Thank you so much Epigramman, I am truly honored by your kind words. We all have changed the the face of Hub Pages, though our contributions as writers. You, I and all other hubbers have given Hub Pages a special part of ourselves through our writing.

I'm glad the we are both admires of this amazing woman. It nice to know that people still remember Olga's contribution. BTW, you have a very pretty cat, I miss my calico, she looked a lot like yours.

epigramman on July 10, 2010:

Olga Korbut changed the face of gymnastics: just like you have changed the face of hubpages .......

Internetwriter62 (author) from Marco Island, Florida on July 05, 2010:

Thanks Billy, I agree, both Olga and Nadia made gymnastics into an exciting sport that captured the imagination of millions of girls worldwide. I remember taking gymnastic classes and being inspired by these two divas of gymnastics.

billyaustindillon on July 05, 2010:

A great tribute - she certainly did change gymnastics - her and Nadia also.

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