As a young gymnast from Belarus, Olga Korbut was nicknamed the “Sparrow from Minsk”, winning four gold medals and two silver medals at the Summer Olympic Games, in 1972 and 1976 for the Soviet team. She also won an individual gold medal, a team gold medal, and four individual silver medals at the 1974 World Gymnastic Championships.

Olga’s 1972 Olympic performances are widely credited as redefining gymnastics with a strong focus on acrobatics rather than elegance, and changing popular opinion of gymnastics from a niche sport to one of the most popular sports in the world.

She is best known for her move, the “Korbut flip”, a backflip performed on the uneven parallel bars, starting from a standing position on the high bar and then catching the same bar from below on the under swing. In 1988 she was the inaugural gymnast to be inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

In 1991, Olga and her family emigrated to the United States, because they were worried about the effects of fallout from the Chernobyl disaster on Belarus. She now works with private gymnastics pupils and does motivational speaking, selling her Olympic medals and other memorabilia in 2017 after apparently falling into financial difficulty.

“Don’t be afraid if things seem difficult in the beginning. That’s only the initial impression. The important thing is not to retreat; you have to master yourself.”