About Olga Korbut

Who is Olga Korbut?

Olga Korbut is a gymnast who won four gold Olympic medals and two silver Olympic medals at the 1972 and 1976 Olympic games.

In her first Olympic event in Munich, the balance beam, Korbut performed something that no one had tried at an international competition: a backward flip on the beam. Spectators were used to seeing this on the floor but not on the beam, which was a mere 4.5in thick. Her bravery and skill took their breath away, then there was uproar and cheers.

She brought two new gymnastic movements that have never done before by any human.

These movements are known as “Korbut Flip” and “Korbut Salto”. The Korbut Salto is a backward serial summersault on the balance beam, and the Korbut Flip is a backflip on the uneven bars. Both of those skills are considered exceptionally difficult.

Olga’s skills and charisma made her a delight to watch whenever she competed. By that, she attracted a mass audience around the world and promoted gymnastic to a popular sport as we know it today. To see Olga’s performance in action, please visit our video section.

How and why she become famous?

Olga Korbut, with her winning smile and elfin physique, touched the hearts of people throughout the world. She inspired emotions of protectiveness in people from all walks of life, generating sympathy for herself, and an intense interest in the sport that started an explosion of new training centers.

This Belarusian gymnast almost singlehandedly turned women’s gymnastics into the popular sport it is today. How come?

Prior to the 1972 Olympics, women’s gymnastics had been a sport practiced by women, not young girls. Larissa Latynina continued to compete and win even after bearing children.Vera Caslavska was 26 when she stunned the world at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. Olga’s charm and technical daring changed that, and the sport became dominated by younger, slighter, more athletic gymnasts. She was open a door for many people. Only 4 years later, Nadia Comaneci at age 14 was able to became a next star in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.


Olga’s principle strength as a gymnast was her originality. She was extremely flexible, giving her advantages in the floor and beam exercises. However, it was her more daring tricks – the back flip while standing on the high bar and her back tuck on the beam – that won her the admiration of millions. She was a master at manipulating a crowd, selecting her floor music for maximum emotional impact whatever setting in which she performed. In Munich in 1972, she became the talk of the planet. People of every nation were asking one question: “Did you see that Belarusian girl, Olga Korbut, on TV last night?” One spectator, acting out the impulses of Olga’s many fans, rushed to bring the weeping gymnast a bouquet of flowers in sympathy. President Nixon, upon meeting her at the White House, told her: “I have always been impressed with your ability to land on your feet.”

Olga won gold medals for her beam and floor routines in the Munich Olympics, and returned with the team in 1976. Olga was a great gymnast, but more than that Olga Korbut became an icon, a legend. She did more to ease the tensions of the Cold War than all the politicians and diplomats of the day put together. She made us all feel like part on one big family.

Olga Korbut Honors

1972: Munich Olympic Games: Olga Korbut Won 4 medals at Olympics: 3 Gold, 1 Silver.

1972: Olga Korbut Named by Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.

1972: ABC Sports recognized Olga as the Athlete of the Year.

1973: Olga Korbut  is a Top Athlete of the Year in the USA.

1974: Olga Korbut Named by BBC “Top Athlete of the Year” in England

1974: Olga Korbut competed in the World Championships. Won 5 medals: 2 Gold, 3 Silver.

1975: Olga Korbut Rewarded with the “Golden Tuning Fork” and named the Woman of the Year in San Remo, Monaco by UNESCO.

1976: Montreal Olympic Games: Olga Korbut Won 2 medals at Olympics: 1 Gold, 1 Silver.


Many awards and honors quickly followed her success in Munich. In 1972, the Associated Press named her “Female of the Year” and ABC Television, “Top Athlete of the Year.”


In 1975, the Women’s Sports Foundation selected her “Athlete of the Year”. Named: Mother of Gymnastics.

Also, in 1975, Olga was selected as “Athlete of the Year” by the Women’s Sport Foundation.


Following the Games, she made the transition to coaching the Soviet team. Thus leaving competitive gymnastics an undisputed champion and a pioneer of such advanced techniques still considered “impossible”.


In 1994, Olga was named by Sport’s Illustrated as one the top athletes in the past 40 years.


Olga Korbut was the first female gymnast Athlete inducted into the gymnastics Hall of Fame.


During the 1996 Olympic Games, she was the official attache of Belarus.


In 1999 Olga Korbut was classified the best sportswoman of the 20th century by the Italian agency AHCA


Read more at Olga Korbut Achievement section.