Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Olga Valentinovna Korbut (Belarusian: Вольга Валянцінаўна Корбут, Vol'ha Valyantsinawna Korbut; Russian: Ольга Валентиновна Корбут) (b. May 16, 1955), also known as the Sparrow from Minsk, is a Soviet Belarusian gymnast who won four gold medals and two silver medals at the Summer Olympics, where she competed in 1972 and 1976.
Korbut, at age 11, entered a Belarusian sports school headed by coach Renald Knysh. Korbut's first trainer was Elena Volchetskaya (a 1964 Olympian); she was moved to Knysh's group a year later. With him, she learned a difficult backward somersault on the balance beam.
She ended fifth at her first competition in the 1969 USSR championships. 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 tournaments prior to the 1972 Olympics.
At the Olympics, her diminutive prettiness captivated the Munich audiences, and there she became the first person ever to do a backward somersault on the uneven parallel bars. She won three gold medals, for the balance beam, floor exercise and team, and one silver medal in the uneven parallel bars.
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.
In the 1976 Olympic Games at Montreal, she won a team gold medal and an individual silver medal for the balance beam.
She graduated from the Grodno Pedagogical Institute in 1977 and retired from Olympic competition thereafter. She married Leonid Bortkevich, who was a member of a popular Belarusan folk band Pesniary. The couple had a son, Richard, in 1979.
Korbut invented two new gymnastic moves, the Korbut Salto and the Korbut Flip. She became a role model for many children all over the world and caused a surge of young girls to join their local gymnastic clubs.
As of 2004 she is residing in the United States and recently had some problems with the authorities (she was caught shoplifting, and her son was caught with false dollar bank notes). Divorced from Bortkevich in the late 1990's, Korbut is now married to Alex Voinich.
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