It seems only the other day that Olga Korbut—all 4’11” and 84 pounds of her—was making gymnastics a world box office sport at the Munich Olympics. Her blond ponytails bobbing, her tearful outbursts melting into elfin grins, the 17-year-old Soviet prodigy gave a scintillating three-gold-medal performance. Now, six years later, a still petite though pudgier Olga has exchanged her red body suit for matrimonial white.
Her new husband is Leonid Bortkevich, 28, himself a state-certified heartthrob as lead vocalist with the pop group Pesnyary. (It’s No. 1 in Russia, but the couple’s personal grooves include the Beatles, Chicago and Stevie Wonder.) They met 18 months ago on a flight to the U.S., and even then Olga was prescient. “I knew quite soon that I was going to marry,” she says.
Back in the U.S. five months later, Olga slipped into a J.C. Penney store in St. Louis and paid $170 for a wedding gown. Her investment finally paid off this month when she and Leonid appeared in Minsk to take their vows, Soviet-style (“You are becoming husband and wife…love and worship each other”). Later, after the traditional visit to the local shrine of the unknown soldier, the couple sped off to a wedding party for 100 guests. There the newlyweds paid homage to presocialist custom by tasting bread and salt, sloshing down a champagne toast and smashing the glasses to shards on the floor.
Often injured and reportedly bored by her sport at the age of 22—especially after she was usurped as the darling of international gymnastics by Rumania’s Nadia Comaneci—Olga has retired from competition and is now studying the graphic arts. She will continue to be Olga Korbut, however, though Soviet law permits either spouse to assume the name of the other. Asked at the nuptials whether she wished to be known as Olga Bortkevich, she replied with an unambiguous “Nyet.” Her new husband understood. Likewise, he said, he did not want to be Leonid Korbut.