Former Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut sells off Olympic medals

UNITED STATES (REUTERS) - Olga Korbut, the gymnastics darling of the 1972 Munich Olympics who has apparently fallen on hard times, has sold off her Games medals and other trophies through a United States auction house.

Thirty-two lots, including two golds and a silver from the Munich Olympics, fetched US$333,500 (S$468,923) in a weekend online sale by Heritage Auctions for the former Soviet gymnast who now lives in Arizona, auction house spokesman Chris Ivy told Reuters on Monday (Feb 27).

The top item was her team gold medal, which brought US$66,000 for the 61-year-old Korbut, a native Belarusian who moved to the US in 1991.

Russia's news reported that she has had financial difficulties.

"Medals saved Korbut from hunger," said the headline, the BBC reported.

Russian gymnast Olga Korbut in 1972 Munich Olympic Games. PHOTO: BBC

At the age of 17, the 4-foot-11 (1.5m) Korbut made a giant impression across the globe at the Munich Games with electrifying routines that brought her team, balance beam and floor exercise gold and a silver in the uneven bars.

Four years later Korbut, who triggered an explosion of interest in gymnastics, added another gold and a silver at the Montreal Olympics.

Sale items included one of her performance leotards, her 1972 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award and various Soviet medals.