Description

    1976 Montreal Olympics USSR Women's Gymnastics Team Gold Medal from The Olga Korbut Collection.
    Nadia Comaneci of the Romanian team stunned the athletic world at these Games with the unprecedented feat of scoring a perfect 10 in an Olympic gymnastics routine--six in total at Montreal, including three in the Team competition. But Korbut kept her Soviet side in the running with two 9.9's and a 9.85 in those same events, and by the time the final figures were tallied, she and her five teammates had claimed the top podium, 3.2 points ahead of the Silver Medal Romanian squad.

    This historic prize represents seventh link in an unbroken chain of eight Women's Gymnastics Team Gold Medals dating from 1952 Helsinki through 1980 Moscow, a streak that ended only with the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games. The Soviets would win again at 1988 Seoul, and as a post-Soviet "Unified Team" at 1992 Barcelona.

    Designed by Giuseppi Cassioli and produced at the Royal Canadian Mint, the offered medal is crafted from 160 grams of gilt silver, and measures 60 millimeters in diameter. Seated victory holds a laurel wreath and palm branch before the Colosseum on obverse, giving way to a large laurel wreath and the Montreal Games emblem on verso. "Gymnastique" is engraved on lower edge. Original gold-plated chain is present. Only 420 Gold Medals were created for presentation at Montreal. Fine condition. 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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    Auction Dates
    February, 2017
    25th-26th Saturday-Sunday
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