Olga Korbut around 1972. Photograph: Wikipedia
Every morning, in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, a sixty-one-year-old woman leaves her house and goes exercising around the lake. She stops at a set of bars to stretch and pulls her leg up way above her head. She then puts her hands on the ground and performs a perfectly controlled handstands, which she keeps for thirty seconds. She then flips back and waves her arms in the air, as gymnasts do to salute the judges.
Such gesture is reminiscent of a past of gold and glory – because the woman is Soviet Olympic champion Olga Korbut.
The Sparrow from Minsk, as Korbut was known during her gymnastics career, caught the heart of people around the world at the 1972 Munich Olympics with her acrobatic gymnastics and playful personality. In Munich, she won three gold medals (on balance beam, floor exercise and with the team) and one silver medal on the uneven bars. Four years later, in Montreal, Korbut helped the Soviets win the team final title and gained another silver medal for herself on balance beam.
After the 1972 Olympics, Korbut became an international star and travelled the world for exhibitions and as an ambassador for gymnastics. In 1991, following the Chernobyl disaster in today’s Ukraine, Korbut moved with her family to the United States.
Olga Korbut is the only gymnast to be honoured with a statue at Mme Toussauds in London. Photograph: Talitha Ilacqua
In all her journeys Korbut always had with her her Olympic medals. Korbut took them out at every exhibition and handed them to her fans, who could see and touch them. ‘Millions of people around the world touched those medals through the years’, said Jay Schanfeldt, Korbut’s fiancé, NBC Sports reports.
Korbut’s Olympic medals, however, will soon make one last journey, away from their rightful owner. Korbut has indeed decided to put five of her seven Olympic medals up for auction, including the Olympic gold medal on floor exercise.
Korbut and Schanfeldt assured that the selling is not a desperate way of collecting money, even though, they admitted, the money will help. On the contrary, the selling is a way of creating a deeper connection between Olga Korbut and her fans, in order to thank them for their role in shaping Korbut and gymnastics’ history.
‘This is Olympic history, and I would like to share with the whole world’, Korbut said. ‘They helped to make it history and make it live forever. This is how I wanted to share with the people.’
The auction will take place on 25 and 26 February at Heritage Auctions’ Sports Platinum Auction.
Once the selling is over, Korbut will return to her peaceful retirement in Arizona. The Sparrow from Minsk, who was in fact from Grodno, near the borders with Poland and Lithuania, said she loves the peace of Arizona ‘with the nature, the nice weather.’ There, she has finally time for herself. ‘I always wanted to plant to garden. I never had time for that and now I will do whatever I want, plant fruits, herbs and enjoy the weather’, Korbut said. ‘It’s paradise.’
By Talitha IlacquaAdvertisement