Description1972 Munich Olympics Individual Floor Exercise Gold Medal from The Olga Korbut Collection.
A nearly perfect final performance in the Individual Floor Exercise earned Korbut the only 9.90 awarded in the event and elevated the charming pixie to the top step of the Munich podium, where she was flanked by teammates Ludmila Tourischeva and Tamara Lazakovich in a Soviet sweep. Some of the best photography of Korbut derives from her Floor performance, her enormous smile captivating the audience nearly as much as her elite skills. This is the only individual Gold Medal from Korbut available, as her Balance Beam Gold from these Games was stolen from a Moscow museum, and the other Golds in her collection were awarded for team achievement.
Designed by Gerhard Marcks and produced at the Bavarian Mint, the offered medal is crafted from 175 grams of gilt silver, and measures 66 millimeters in diameter. Seated victory holds a laurel wreath and palm branch before the Colosseum on obverse, giving way to mythological Roman twins Castor and Pollux on verso. "Turnen Schwebebalken Frauen, Korbut Olga" is engraved on upper edge. Original chain is present. Only 364 Gold Medals were created for presentation at Munich. Fine condition with minor signs of wear in original presentation case. Letter of provenance from Olga Korbut.
The Olga Korbut Collection.
At just four feet eleven inches in height, and tipping the scales at just over eighty pounds, one might have expected Olga Korbut to be simply swept away in the maelstrom of politics and expectations that swirled around the 1972 Munich Games. The Cold War had never fully thawed at any international summit of the world's greatest athletes, and this 1972 edition was devastated by the horrors of the terrorist attack upon the Israeli team at the Olympic Village. But it was at these Games, under those most challenging conditions, that Korbut supplied a gymnastics performance of pure mastery and joy, beginning a global love affair with "The Sparrow from Minsk," who single-handedly upended the stereotype of the Soviet athlete as a stone-faced automaton.
The world welcomed her back to the sport's brightest spotlight four years later in Montreal, where she was identified as the best hope to throw a leash around the rising star of Romanian wunderkind Nadia Comaneci, but injury limited the full breadth of Korbut's brilliance, restricting her medal haul to a team Gold and personal Silver.
This auction will present the tangible evidence of Korbut's elite achievement-three Gold and two Silver medals earned at the Olympic Games of Munich and Montreal--as well as dozens of other relics of her age of dominance (her fourth Gold Medal--1972 Balance Beam--was stolen from a Moscow museum). But her greatest legacy cannot be measured by the inanimate. After the 1972 Games, Korbut was invited to visit Richard Nixon at the White House, and she later reported that, "He told me that my performance in Munich did more for reducing the political tension during the Cold War between our two countries than the embassies were able to do in five years."
Today, at age sixty-one, Korbut parts with the mementos of her youthful glory because the thing she values most is always with her. There is hardly a gymnast alive who doesn't credit this tiny force of nature for the explosion of the sport's popularity on a global level, for establishing gymnastics as the most anticipated competition of the Summer Games. Heritage Auctions is privileged and proud for the opportunity in bringing this historic collection to the collecting world, each lot joined by a signed letter of provenance from Ms. Korbut herself.
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