Olga Valentinovna Korbut (b. May 16, 1955), also known as the “Sparrow from Minsk”, is a former Belarusian gymnast.
She won four gold medals and two silver medals at the Summer Olympic Games, in which she competed in 1972 and 1976 for the Soviet team.
Korbut is a highly decorated athlete with four Olympic gold medals to her credit, but it is not this feat for which she is most remembered. The media whirl which surrounded her 1972 Olympic debut caused a surge of young girls to join their local gymnastic clubs, and a sport which had seldom been noticed previously now made headlines. After the 1972 Olympic competition, she also met United States President Richard Nixon at the White House. About the meeting, Korbut said: “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.” In addition to greatly publicizing gymnastics worldwide, she also contributed to a marked change in the tenor of the sport itself. Prior to 1972, the athletes were generally older and the focus was on elegance rather than acrobatics. In the decade after Korbut’s Olympic debut, the emphasis was reversed.Korbut, in her 1972, gold-medal Olympics, at 4’11’ and 82 pounds, exemplified the deliberate and purposeful trend toward smaller women in sport.