With the sport of gymnastics being different than the one in Olga's time, Korbut expressed her anger against the money makers "if I could change gymnastics again today...I would take the “money makers” out of the sport."
In 1974, Olga dominated the World championships having won every medal possible. She retired in 1977 and after the dissolution of the USSR, she emigrated to the states. Korbut now lives in Scottsdale Arizona.
Gigi Khazback:Gymnastics has changed over the years, from a sport that values artistry and grace to a one that values difficulty, How does Olga Korbut feel about gymnastics today?
Olga Korbut:Gymnastics is like every other sport. It changes. Technology has changed the equipment from when I competed. If I could perform on today’s equipment, I would hit the roof in the arena.
Gigi Khazback:You were the first gymnast to perform the Korbut flip which is considered to be the hardest and the scariest skill on the uneven bars, how did you manage to perform it, were you scared at the beginning?
Olga Korbut: At the beginning I was excited about this element. It took 10 years to perfect this element. In 1973, they banned it because it was so dangerous. I told them if you don’t let me perform, I will quit. They couldn’t let me quit. Gymnastics needed me. In Montreal in 1976, I performed the “Korbut Flip” for the final time at the Olympics.
Gigi Khazback: Whats the difference between the life of a gymnast in the 70s and the one now days?
Olga Korbut: I love gymnastics, but today there isn’t any grace. And the judging has changed.
Gigi Khazback: Are you still in contact with your former teammates?
Olga Korbut: I haven’t talked to them for years, because we have our own lives and are busy.
Gigi Khazback: Are you still involved in gymnastics?
Olga Korbut: Gymnastics is my life. I don’t want to “cash in” on the commercial success as others do. I do private lessons for girls that want to reach for the limits they wish for. Someday, another Olga will be born & perform. I can’t wait to witness it.
Gigi Khazback: Do you watch your performances at the Olympics every once and a while? If so, What goes on in your mind and in your heart while watching it?
Olga Korbut: I commentated for the BBC in London this year. Actually, I wanted to jump out of the studio and do my bar routine.
Gigi Khazback: When Romania's Nadia Comaneci scored the perfect 10 which was at your second Olympics, what went through your mind at that moment?
Olga Korbut: Actually, politics made it a perfect 10. The routine had mistakes but that’s how the cookie crumbles. Even today politics play a very prominent role in gymnastic results. I think changes need to be made in judging so the gymnasts who deserve medals...win them. Gymnastics is the hardest sport in the world and politics shouldn’t play a role in the results. And the people that have made millions of dollars being there for 30+ years should find another job. The Olympics is the world stage for the worlds best athletes. I would like to see gymnasts compete from their heart in an honest competition.
Gigi Khazback: Some people say Comaneci wasn't the first to score the perfect 10 but Czech's Vera Calaskava did, what do you think about that?
Olga Korbut: I agree! Not to brag, but in 1972, in Munich my bar routine wasn’t judged properly and the 16,000 fans knew it was the first “unofficial perfect 10” The Olympics stopped for 20 minutes because the crowd was angry. It was so loud, nobody could compete. There was nothing wrong with my routine. It should have been the first perfect 10.
Gigi Khazback:What's next for Olga Korbut?
Olga Korbut:What’s next is? Making change in the world. In 1973, President Nixon wanted to meet me. He told me that gymnasts always land on their feet. He said he wished politicians could land on their feet for world peace. Russian leaders said what I did in five minutes, is what they couldn’t do in five years to calm the Cold War. My life now isn’t about making money...It’s about teaching youngsters about how to make change and reach for their dreams.
As the interview came to an end the former Soviet gymnast gave an advice to her world wide fans.
"Please remember this, People with heart, know one thing...because they hold it inside...deep inside, they know “The Best Is Yet To Come” and losing isn’t an option...Leaders are born to lead and never quit until the job is done! Again, I was very poor. 10 years training for the Olympics...asked to visit the White House and meet President Nixon!. That’s not politics...It’s life and everyone can make change if they reach deep inside and “create change”
Interview by WOGymnastike editor Gigi Khazback
Read also my interview with Former Romanian gymnast and the Olympic all around champion Andreea Raducan and Canadian gymnast Peng Peng Lee