Olga Korbut’s performance on the uneven bars at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, pictured here by Gerry Cranham, was a thing of beauty. The 30-second display featured what became known as the “Korbut flip” – an inconceivable, whirling sequence in which she daringly backflipped off the high bar, then propelled herself off the low bar in reverse via her hips. It was so innovative that when the judges scored her routine 9.80 out of 10, placing her second overall, there were howls of disapproval from the crowd. They believed the 17-year-old Soviet gymnast, the darling of the Games, should have become the first to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics. Instead, that honour went to the great Nadia Comaneci four years later. Korbut did at least claim gold medals in three other disciplines at the Games, though her flip was later outlawed for being too dangerous.

Photograph: Gerry Cranham/Offside

Words: Jonny Weeks

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