I was nine years old when Olga Korbut sprang to fame at the Munich Olympics. The fresh-faced and smiling young Russian gymnast stole everyone’s heart that year. It was the first time I’d paid any attention to the Olympics, and most of it sailed over my head, but I managed to be glued to the TV whenever Olga was competing.
Her brilliant smiles when things went well, were charming, but we cried along with her when she failed. She cried tears. On international TV. It was a revelation.
I’m pretty sure her performance (and subsequent gold medals) went a long way to inspiring millions of other young girls to take up gymnastics. Most of the summer holidays were spent with my friends as we tried to master the forward roll, handstand, and cartwheel. We came home covered in grass stains, and aching in every muscle, but if Olga Korbut could win three gold medals, there was hope for us too.
So what did I learn from this amazing young woman? Don’t give up. Anything is possible.
When I struggled with one of my University Courses (failed an exam, failed the re-sit, re-took the year, failed the exam again—and then failed the final re-sit), my tutor told me it was time to give up. I took a year out, switched courses and started again – and finally graduated with a Bachelor of Science.
When I wanted to emigrate to New Zealand from the UK, but didn’t have the right set of qualifications and experience, it looked impossible. I kept applying for jobs here, and eventually landed one that would give me the sponsorship I needed to qualify for the visa.
And when I wanted to become a writer—a published writer—it was another tortuous path. Landing my first contract was amazing, and every time Release Day comes around, I take a moment to remind myself how far I’ve come.
Thank you, Olga. You’re still my inspiration.
P.S. It has to be said, I suck at gymnastics. I could do a mean forward roll, but in gym class at school, the only other thing I did well was climbing the rope.
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Check out this lovely 6-minute video to see a summary of her olympics:
And this incredible routine she became famous for, including the Korbut-flip (now banned).
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The world’s press went crazy for her: