Olga Korbut’s 1972 Olympic Uneven Bars Performance

In 1972, a young Belarusian girl, known as the Sparrow from Minsk, became the first gymnast to complete a standing back somersault on the balance beam and a back somersault to swingdown on the uneven bars — both later became known as the Korbut Flip (do you have an athletic competition move named after you?) and the latter has since been banned from Olympic uneven bar competition because it involves standing on the high bar, a maneuver which is now illegal in the Code of Points, and considered extremely difficult.

Olga Valentinovna Korbut was just 17 at the time of her historic performance. Korbut’s first attempt at her uneven bars routine was marred by several mistakes which all but ended her chances of winning a gold medal in the all around.

However, the next day she attempted the same routine in the event finals and as you’ll see below she did so rather successfully. Spectacularly even.

After the boards displayed a score of 9.8 (it was probably a US judge that didn’t give her a 10, which is just, unfathomable seeing as she completed moves NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE!?!), the audience began to whistle, jeer, stamp their feet, and shout vulgar remarks at the judges in disapproval, believing Korbut was deserving of the 10.

The judges never altered her score. Despite that, Korbut, who was named Athlete of the Year by ABC’s Wide World of Sports, went on to win four Gold Medals between the 1972 Munich games and the 1976 Montreal games. She has perhaps been overshadowed in history by Romanian prodigy, Nadia Com?neci.

Still, after retiring from athletic competition, Com?neci never went on to become a star in the popular Belarusian folk band, Pesniary, did she? Score this one in favor of Olga Korbut. [thanks to Emily for the h/t]

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