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Celebrated Soviet Gymnast Korbut Auctions Off Medals

Former Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut performs at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Former Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, who exploded to international fame during the 1972 Munich Olympics, has sold off her five Olympic medals and other trophies through a U.S. auction house for $333,500.

The top item in a weekend online sale by Heritage Auctions was her team gold medal, which brought $66,000, the auction house said on February 27.

Korbut, 61, was born in Belarus but moved to the United States in 1991.

Russia's news reported that Korbut has had financial difficulties recently. "Medals saved Korbut from hunger," a headline said, the BBC reported.

At the age of 17, the 1.5-meter tall Korbut made a big impression across the globe at the Munich Games with electrifying routines that brought her team, balance beam, and floor-exercise gold medals as well as a silver medal in the uneven bars.

Four years later Korbut, known as "the Sparrow from Minsk" who sparked interest in gymnastics worldwide, added another gold and 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.

Based on reporting by Reuters and RIA Novosti