On September 1, 1972, the gymnastics portion of the Olympic Games ended with the men’s event finals. It was largely a competition between the Japanese and Soviet gymnasts. Only three gymnasts made the finals from other countries: Köste of East Germany, W. Kubica of Poland, and Rohner of Switzerland.
The Munich Olympic Games were the first time that there was an all-around final. So, instead of competing for three days, the top gymnasts had to compete for four days. Some gymnasts like Kato qualified for every final, meaning they performed a total of 24 routines.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
As we’ll see, there were six different gold medalists during the event finals.
Six apparatus — six champions. This means that in the world today there are many gymnasts of nearly equal strength, gymnasts of the highest class.Sovetsky Sport, no. 207, 1972
Шесть снарядов — шесть чемпионов, Это значит, что в мире сейчас немало гимнастов примерно равных по силам, гимнастов самого высокого класса.
Only five of the possible eight gold medals went to the Japanese (6 event finals + 1 team + 1 all-around). They had been hoping for all eight.
It was certainly a bit of a surprise for many gymnastics experts that the great Japanese gymnasts showed some weaknesses in their condition at the end of three strenuous days of competition in this final. Yukio Endo, the coach of the world champion and Olympic champion squad, said: “I have to admit that our goal was eight gold medals. Now it’s only five, but I’m not at all sad that the USSR and the GDR snatched something from us. After all, Japanese gymnasts aren’t machines either.”Berliner Zeitung, Sept. 3, 1972
Sicher war es für viele Turnsport-Experten etwas überraschend, daß die großartigen japanischen Turner am Ende dreier anstrengender Wettkampftage bei diesem Finale doch einige Konditionsschwächen zeigten Yukio Endo, der Trainer der Weltmeister- und Olympiasieger- Riege, meinte selbst dazu: „Ich muß zugeben, daß unser Ziel acht Goldmedaillen waren. Nun sind es nur fünf geworden, doch traurig bin ich gar nicht darüber, daß uns die UdSSR und die DDR etwas weggeschnappt haben. Schließlich sind auch die japanischen Turner keine Maschinen.”
Because of the elongated competition schedule due to the addition of the all-around final, many of the top gymnasts did not perform as well during the event finals.
At least that was the working theory…
Gymnasts who make it to the final 36 of the all-around championships will have to perform their routines three times, while those who make it to the final [will have to perform] four times. So the best gymnasts – such as women’s gymnasts Tourischeva, Janz and Korbut – have appeared before the judges and the audience sixteen times. Among the men, Kato and Kenmotsu twenty-four times! And all this in a competition where people are the judges and thousands of points decide the final winner. This is the reason why the great personalities of the gymnastics team, such as Tourischeva, Lazakovich, Kato, Nakayama, who had previously performed almost flawlessly, were ruined in the final of the individual apparatus.Képes Sport, Sept. 5, 1972
Azok a tornászok, akik az öszszetett bajnokság 36-os döntőjébe kerülnek, háromszor mutatják be gyakorlatukat, akik pedig még a szerenkénti döntőben is szerepelnek, négyszer. A legjobbak tehát — mint a nők közül például Turiscseva, Janz és Korbut — tizenhatszor álltak a bírák és a közönség elé. A férfiak közül Kató és Kenmocu huszonnégyszer! S mindezt egy olyan versenyben, amelyben emberek bíráskodnak, s ezredpontok döntik el a végső győzelmet. Ennek tulajdonítható, hogy a tornacsoport olyan nagy egyéniségei, mint Turiscseva, Lazakovics, Kató, Nakajama a korábban szinte hibátlanul végrehajtott gyakorlataikat a szerenkénti döntőkben elrontották.
Japan’s Official Report said the same thing.
The team started [the event finals] with high hopes for the gold medals in five events. But the team and individual all-around competitions were tiring, and on floor exercise and vault, mistakes were made on both events, and the foreign teams took the championships. Especially since the number of events has increased once this year, and most of the Japanese athletes are in the top ranks, there are many competitors in 5 to 6 events, so the burden on the athletes is very heavy, and unexpected mistakes like this can happen.Japan’s Official Report on the 1972 Olympics in Munich
跳馬を除く5種目に金メダルの望みがあり、大いにはりきってスタートはしたが, ゆか, あん馬では,団体, 個人総合での疲れが出たためか共にミスを生じ外国勢に優勝をもっていかれてしまった。 特に今大会からは,競技数が1回増え､また日本選手はほとんど上位に入っているため, 種目別でも5~6種目の出場者が多く選手にとっての負担は非常に大きくこの様な, 思いもよらない失敗も生ずる。
Before the event finals, Nakayama Akinori predicted that the Japanese gymnasts might struggle in the final competition.
Nakayama Akinori, the team captain of the Asian squad, estimated: “This individual competition will be very, very difficult for us once again, because here our probably greater well-roundedness, which led to the three all-around medals, counts for nothing. The gymnasts of the USSR, but also of the GDR, definitely have their chances …”Deutsches Sportecho, Sept. 1, 1972
Akinori Nakayama, der Mannschaftskapitän der asiatischen Riege, schätzte ein: „Dieser Einzel-Wettbewerb wird für uns noch einmal sehr, sehr schwer, denn hier zählt unsere wohl doch größere Ausgeglichenheit, die zu den drei Mehrkampf-Medäillen führte, nichts mehr. Die Turner der UdSSR, aber auch der DDR haben durchaus ihre Chancen …“
Are the increased difficulty requirements impacting execution?
This is the first time that they have made several mistakes in the execution of their routines – already in the individual finals. This also calls into question their progression in the men’s tournament. Is it possible, or even worthwhile, to increase the difficulty requirements of the exercises, even if this makes execution uncertain? This question, will be answered primarily by the Japanese, and the events of the Munich final will certainly influence their further steps. But one thing is already certain: those who want to defeat the Japanese should not only imitate them.Képes Sport, Sept. 5, 1972
Most először fordult elő, hogy — már a szerenkénti döntőkben — a gyakorlatok végrehajtásában többször hibáztak. Ez teszi kérdésessé a férfi tornában is a továbblépést. Lehet-e, érdemes-e még fokozni a gyakorlatok erősségi követelményeit, akkor is, ha az bizonytalanná teszi a végrehajtást? Erre ,a A kérdésre is elsősorban a japánok adnak majd választ, s a müncheni szerenkénti döntő eseményei minden bizonnyal befolyással lesz további lépéseikre. Egy dolog azonban már most is biztosam megítélhető: akik győzni akarnak a japánok felett, azoknak nem utánozniu kell őket.
Reminder #1: The requirements for risk, originality, and virtuosity were higher during all-around finals and even higher during event finals. Also, there were two superior judges for every event.
Reminder #2: Only six gymnasts qualified for event finals. Qualification for finals was based on the compulsory *and* optional scores on each event.
A gymnast’s final score was the average of his compulsory and optional scores + the score for his routine during event finals.
COA = Compulsory + Optional Average
Note: The 1969 and 1971 European champion on floor, Raicho Hristov (BUL), was injured before the Olympics.
The news agencies announced the composition of the delegations of some countries. According to the data, among the gold medalists from two years ago, the Bulgarian Hristov (floor) cannot defend his championship title, as it seems that he has not fully recovered from the injury he received before the Olympics.Népsport, May 11, 1973
A hírügynökségek közölték néhány ország küldöttségének összeállítását. Az adatok szerint a két év előtti aranyérmesek közül nem védheti meg bajnoki címét a bolgár Hristov (talaj), aki úgy látszik, nem gyógyult fel teljesen az olimpia előtt szerzett sérüléséből.
Kato came into finals with the lead, but he crashed his piked Arabian and was short on most of his landings.
Kato: RO, ff, ff, double back (low and overbalanced but intending the ½ turn) to straight body fall, lift leg forward to splits, 2 double leg circles with ¼ turn, back extension roll through handstand; stoop down; RO, ff, delayed piked arabian front (short rotation and crashing to his seat), front roll to stand on one leg, turn, backward walkover, stoop through to back, sit up and push up to straddle L, straight arm press to handstand, rollout to one knee, stand and turn, RO, side somie, sideward roll; turn to lunge, turn to Y scale, RO, ff, ff, double twist (short on twist and took step) …. 9.20.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
The winning routine: Andrianov
Andrianov: Front somie step out, RO, ff, double back (the only one he landed was in the individual event finals); step to corner, back along the diagonal with side somie, side somie, Swedish fall, stand, RO, full, ff, lunge, single leg circles, turn to prone position, to splits, straight arm straddle press to handstand, step down, RO, ff, arabian dive roll, straddle roll out, to 2 double leg circles, prone position, come to stand, Y scale, RO, ff, double twist (with one step for balance)… 9.65.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Reminder: Andrianov stepped out of bounds during the all-around final, partly costing him a bronze medal. So, this was redemtion.
Kenmotsu went for his triple full but didn’t nail it.
At this point, Kenmotsu, who was among those tied with Andrianov at the start, had to decide whether to go for broke and throw everything to try to beat the Russian or whether to play safe with a routine of lesser difficulty. He elected to throw his triple full in his mount and overturned the somersault while completing the triple twist and tried to save the situation by turning around to front support. This, along with a form break on the dismount and a low position in his side scale, gave the judges enough to penalize him into fourth place.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Of the gymnasts on the podium, Kato was the first to compete. Here’s a recap of the routine that gave him silver.
Kato: Mounts in the middle; jump to ½ circle, moore, ½ circle, back moore, travel to front in immediate back stockli out, 1 circle, hop, immediate kehre in, 1 circle, travel out, ½ circle, back travel in, back travel out, ½ circle, back stockli in, 1½ circles, 2 back scissors, 2 front scissors, 2 circles, travel out, 1½ circles, loop, hop, loop with ½ turn off… 9.50.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Of the podium finishers, Klimenko was next. Here’s his gold-medal-winning routine:
Klimenko did not need much above a 9.5 to be safe since Kato had earned only a 9.50. The Russian led Kato by 0.025 while trailing Kenmotsu by the same margin. He mounted with 2 loops facing outwards on the end, ½ hop,1 circle, front in to moore, 1½ circles, back moore travel out, ½ circle, kehre in, 1 circle , 2back scissors, 2 front scissors, 1 circle, moore, 1½ circles, travel out, Chaguinian off (with slightly bent knees in the final loop)… 9.60.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Klimenko’s score put pressure on Kenmotsu, who ended up with bronze.
The 9.60 awarded Klimenko put pressure on Kenmotsu, again the last man up. He needed a 9.6 to stay ahead; a 9.55 would put him second. Again, the breaks were not going his way as he suffered a slight break just after a moore, had other form breaks and just muscled his dismount through.
Kenmotsu : Mount to center, back moore, travel in, 1 circle, Russian on one pommel to end, 2 circles, loop, back stockli in, 2 circles, back moore – travel- kehre in (one pommel), ½ circle, 3 front scissors, 1 back scissor, 1½ circles, back moore travel out, ½ circle, loop, ½ circle, Russian off… 9.40.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
The pressure was on the Japanese to win. The Japanese press had predicted that their men’s artistic gymnasts could take 7 of the 8 gold medals home.
To this point, the judges and the Japanese themselves had kept Japan from taking any of the gold medals, Endo was so sure they would bring back from the finals. But then it was on to the rings where Nakayama, experienced veteran of the team and twice gold medalist in Mexico City and Ljubjana was to battle it out with the Russian, Voronin, who had placed second and third in these prior contests.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Of the medalists, Tsukahara was the first to compete. Here’s a recap of the routine that won him bronze:
Tsukahara: Straight body pull to inverted hang, cast out to Japanese inlocate to straight arm back uprise to handstand; back giant with straight arms to handstand; giant down to front uprise to L support, straight body, bent arm press to handstand, lower slowly to maltese cross (didn’t hold it), then lower to cross lower and lift body to inverted hang, dislocate, high dislocate, double piked flyaway… 9.70.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
With the following routine, Nakayama was able to repeat as the Olympic champion on rings.
Nakayama: High (Japanese) inlocate, back uprise (slightly bent arms) to handstand, back giant (straight arms), planche down to back lever to L cross, lower through back lever, kip to L support, straight body, bent arm press to handstand, fall over to back uprise to cross, dislocate to full off (a little short on the twist)… 9.65.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Voronin was the penultimate gymnast. (Kato competed after him.)
Voronin: Dislocate, straight arm shoot to handstand, straight arm back giant to handstand, fall over with straight arms to back uprise to planche, lower to cross (about ½ second), lower through back lever to kip to L support, straight body bent arm press to handstand, lower through planche to back lever, immediate dislocate, dislocate, full… 9.65.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Note: Voronin had the same score as Nakayama in finals. His struggle on the compulsory dismount cost him. Voronin’s compulsory score was a 9.60, and his optional score was a 9.65. Nakayama received a 9.70 in both competition 1a and 1b.
Note: In this section, a handspring 1½ means a handspring to a front salto. A handspring 1½ twist means a handspring with 1½ twists (no salto).
It was a final of errors — just like many vault finals nowadays.
Only Koeste and Klimenko were to hit both vaults, and the East German was most surprised to learn that he had won. In the post-competition interviews, he explained that he hadn’t even expected to make the finals and had not sufficiently practiced his second vault.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
From 1952 until 1968, there was always a Japanese gymnast on the Olympic vault podium, so 1972 was a surprise.
With Boris Schakhlin serving as superior judge on the vaults, and with only two Japanese in the finals, it seemed likely that a Japanese would not finish in first place. What was surprising was that neither finished with even a medal, the first time in many consecutive events in world competition that a Japanese was not to occupy a spot on the victory stand.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
The judging was tougher during the event finals.
Kenmotsu: handspring 1 ½ but overturned it and had to scramble on his landing… 9.05. (Higher scores had been awarded earlier for vaults with the same fault, but in Competition Three this seemed to merit stiffer penalties instead of greater leniency.) His second vault was a handspring with full twist from the far end; it was slightly overturned and required a step for balance… 9.25. Ave. = 9.150.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
The score for Klimenko’s first vault was raised.
Klimenko : Handspring full from far end, slightly overturned and requiring a step for balance. It did not have the height of Kenmotsu’s vault but his score was upgraded from a 9.30 (initially flashed) to 9.4. His second vault was the Tsukahara vault–Ianding on the horse with bent arms but getting good push off for a high vault with fast tuck and a solid landing… 9.45. Ave. = 9.425.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Köste’s winning vaults
Koeste: Handspring 1½ from near end. This was a good high vault with plenty of room to stretch for the floor for the landing but he hopped slightly for balance …. 9.45. His second vault, a handspring with full twist, seemed to be turned a little too early or too much while in contact with the horse. On this vault also he required a slight hop for balance… 9.30. Ave. = 9.375.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Andrianov took bronze with a fall.
Andrianov: Handspring 1½ from near end . This showed the best pre-flight form of any attempts at this vault but he landed off balance sideways and took a step back onto the mat… 9.50. His handspring with 1½ twist was under-somersaulted and resulted in a solid landing on his seat. Apparently the leniency clause applied as his score was 8.90. Ave. = 9.200.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Note: Andrianov really did have clean form on his handspring front vault. You can see it in a 1972 video profile of him.
Here’s what Köste had to say after his gold-medal performance.
A Yamashita followed by a tucked somersault and a handstand flip with a complete turn were the two vaults that brought Klaus Koste – although he only entered the final with the third-highest advance – the highest fame that an athlete can acquire. The Olympic champion, who comes from a genuine gymnast family, explained his great success himself: “As the longest-serving gymnast among the world’s best, I am particularly happy about this victory. It also came as a surprise to me, since I rarely did the second vault in training. The main thing was to achieve a good result in the all-around. My wife and my two children, who are also very enthusiastic about gymnastics, will be very happy about my gold medal.”Berliner Zeitung, Sept. 3, 1972
Ein Yamashita mit anschließendem gehocktem Salto sowie ein Handstand-Uberschlag mit ganzer Drehung waren die beiden Sprünge, die Klaus Koste — obwohl nur mit dem dritthöchsten Vorweit in den Finalkampf gegangen — den hoch sten Ruhm einbrachten, den sich ein Sportler erwerben kann. Der Olympiasieger, aus einer waschechten Turner-Familie stammend, erklärte selbst zu seinem schönen Erfolg: „Als dienstaltester Turner im Feld der weltspitze freue ich mich besonders über diesen Sieg. Auch für mich kam er überraschend, da ich den zweiten Sprung nur selten im Training geturnt habe. Es kam ja in erster Linie darauf an, im Mehrkampf ein gutes Ergebnis zu erzielen. Meine Frau und meine beiden Kinder, die ebenfalls sehr turnbegeistert sind, werden sich über meine Goldmedaille sehr freuen.”
Why did Andrianov get an 8.450? He missed a simple back uprise.
Andrianov: Standing on beat board, peach to handstand, front pirouette, stutz, layaway, front uprise, front somersault catch and swing forward to shoulder roll, back uprise, cut catch, straight arm straddle press (a little fast and lacking rhythm ), back toss through handstand and swing down and fall to piked upper arm support, (low) back uprise with bent knees and 3 intermediate swings, then to handstand, double salto off… 8.45.
Reminder: He had had problems on parallel bars at the USSR Championships.
Kenmotsu: Peach to near handstand, press, forward pirouette, drop cast to support, swing back, pirouette, drop to peach to handstand, stutz to handstand, back toss through handstand, drop cast, back uprise cut catch L, straight arm press with straddle legs to handstand, stutz to handstand, back off with full twist….9.60.
Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Kasamatsu: jump to end, cast to support, swing forward pirouette, high back toss to handstand, stutz to handstand, Diamidov to handstand, drop cast, back uprise with ½ turn (stutz), forward roll to back uprise to straddle cut catch to L, straight arm press with straddle legs to handstand, back off with full twist… 9.75 .Gymnast, Jan. 1973
With the 9.75 awarded Kasamatsu, Kato now needed a 9.6 to tie for the gold medal.
Kato: From stand on beat board, jump, to straddle cut, 2 double leg circles, drop cast catch to middle of bars, swing forward pirouette, back toss to handstand, stutz to near handstand, back toss to handstand and snap legs down to straddle cut and immediate drop cast, back uprise straddle cut to L, straight arm press to handstand with straddled legs, double salto off… 9.80.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Did Kenmotsu have the best routine?
Kenmotsu: jump to undergrip, straight arm cast to handstand, immediate Endoshoot into hop to dislocate grip, one eagle giant to one inverted giant to Ono turn to rear vault, kip with straight arms, hop pirouette ¾ forward giant to stalder, shoot into back pirouette, ¾ forward giant, hecht with full twist… 9.65.
Kenmotsu’s routine seemed short, but he had 9 Cs and 2 Bs and 1 A. USA Olympic coach Grossfeld felt it was the best routine in the finals and that only Kenmotsu could have executed such an intricate and difficult exercise.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Of the gymnasts who ended up on the podium, Kato had to compete first. Here’s his silver-medal performance:
Kato: jump to undergrip swing, jam and stoop through to shoot into 2 eagle giants, ¾ eagle hop forward, ½ turn, ¾ back giant, stalder shoot, ¾ back giant, hop to undergrip and immediate Endoshoot, ¾ forward giant, forward pirouette, one back giant to cross right hand over left and cross grip turn to full forward pirouette on left arm, one giant, Ono turn, rear vault, kip change grip, two forward giants, forward pirouette immediate to tucked double flyaway… 9.75.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Tsukahara was the penultimate gymnast and received his second 9.90.
Tsukahara: Undergrip, jam and stoop through to Takemoto to backrise full turn catch, underswing, hop grip, kip, ¾ forward giant, stoop through, seat circle, shoot, one inverted giant, ¾ eagle hop, ½ forward pirouette, ¾ back giant, Staldershoot to hop to undergrip, ¾ forward giant, hecht (Voronin) vault to underswing hop to undergrip, kip, ¾ forward giant, forward pirouette, two back giants to half-in, half-out double flyaway… 9.90.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
Tsukahara on his dismount:
And Mitsuo Tsukahara. who became the “king” of horizontal bar gymnastics in Munich and won the apparatus final here in front of four of his teammates, explained his artistic dismount (backwards somersault and forward somersault with half a turn each), which was rewarded with 9.90 points: “I worked on this dismount for a year and a half, I hurt myself a couple of times during practice doing this breakneck double somersault with a twist, but I guess it was worth it.”Berliner Zeitung, Sept. 3, 1972
Und Mitsuo Tsukahara. der in München zum „König” des Reckturnens avancierte und vor vier seiner Mannschaftskameraden hier das Geräte-Finale gewann erklärte zu seinem artistischen Abgang (Salto rückwärts und Salto vorwärts mit jeweils einer halben Drehung), der mit 9,90 Punkten belohnt wurd°: „Eineinhalb Jahre habe ich an diesem Abgang gearbeitet. Ich habe mich bei dieser halsbrecherischer Sache mit Doppelsalto und Schraube während des Trainings ein paarmal verletzt, aber es hat sich ja wohl gelohnt.”
At the time, it was called the “moon salto.” You can read more about it here.
Kasamatsu closed the high bar finals and the gymnastics competition at the Olympic Games.
Kasamatsu: Undergrip, stoop to immediate handstand, immediate Endoshoot, ¾ forward giant, stoop through to seat circle to 2 inverted giants, one eagle, hop to one arm undergrip, full forward pirouette, one giant, Ono turn to rear vault, kip change, one forward giant, forward pirouette, one back giant to pike-open flyaway with full twist… 9.70.Gymnast, Jan. 1973
In other words, the podium included one gymnast who did a full-twisting flyaway (Kasamatsu) and another who did a full-twisting double-back flyaway (Tsukahara).
Appendix: The Terrorist Attack
In the early hours of September 5, several days after the gymnastics competition had ended, members of the Palestinian group Black September broke into the Olympic village, killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team, and took nine Israeli athletes hostage in a day-long siege. It ended with a series of police errors that led to the death of all nine of the Israeli captives.
Kato Sawao wrote about this moment in his autobiography.
Joy, Sorrow, and…
The success of the Japanese men’s gymnastics team at the Munich Olympics has gone down in history. In the team all-around, we won four consecutive gold medals since Rome 1960, and in the individual all-around, I won two consecutive gold medals, Mr. Tsukahara won the gold on high bar, I won the gold on parallel bars, and Mr. Nakayama won the gold on rings. In men’s gymnastics alone, Japan won a total of 16 gold medals: five gold, five silver, and six bronze.
The total number of medals won by the Japanese team at the Games were about 29. Gymnastics is a sport in which it is possible to win multiple medals, but more than the number of medals, I was happy that Japan’s gymnastics team was able to show the world its resilience and fulfillment.
I myself won three gold medals and two silver medals. In the non-medal events, I was fourth in hoisting and vaulting, and sixth in Yuka. After six fulfilling days, I felt a pleasant sense of freedom. I was able to relax in the athletes’ village.
Unfortunately, four days later, on September 5, the calm was suddenly shattered by a major incident. The worst tragedy in Olympic history occurred. Palestinian guerrillas calling themselves “Black September” attacked the building where the Israeli athletes were staying.
The Japanese and Israeli buildings where we lived were few steps away from each other. The helicopter flew over with a tremendous sound. However, we had no idea what was going on inside the athletes’ village.
Only later did I realize that the helicopter flight was to drop the snipers off on the building’s balcony, and that the firefight, including one that was moved to the airport, was a catastrophe that killed 17 people, including guerrillas and hostage police officers.The Path of Beautiful Gymnastics: The Story of Kato Sawao (美しい体操の軌跡加藤沢男物語)
ミュンヘン 五輪での日本男子体操チームの 活躍ぶりは語り継がれるものとなった。団体総合では一九六〇年ローマ大会から四連覇を果たし、個人総合は私が二連覇、鉄棒は塚原君、平行棒ま私、つり輪は中山さんがそれぞれ金メダルを獲得した。 男子体操だけで日本は金五個、銀五個、銅六個の合わせて十六個を取ったのだった。
私自身は三個の金メダル、二個の銀メダルを獲得した。 メダル以外の種目の成績はつり輪と跳馬が四位、ゆかが六位だった。 充実した六日間を終えたとき、解放感が心地よかった。選手村でゆっくりくつろぐことができた。
Like Kato, Olga Korbut didn’t hear about the attack until later:
The simple truth is that my team-mates and I were never told that this horrible atrocity was happening.
We were not actually staying in the Olympic Village at the time, and I knew nothing about it. None of us did. I assume that the rest of the world judged the Soviet athletes to be cold and unfeeling. The truth is we just didn’t know. The Sports Committee and our interpreters did not choose to inform us.
I can’t remember the exact moment that I found out, but I think it was when I was listening to the radio, after our part in the Games had ended. I couldn’t really understand the German announcer, but I heard something about an explosion in Munich, in the Israeli sportsmen’s residence, which had taken the lives of many people. I tried to understand the German words, listening in shock and horror.
Why had we not been told?
I went to Larissa Latynina to ask her what had happened. “Is it true that several Israeli athletes were killed?”
“It’s none of our business, Olga,” was all she said.
Then it must be true. The information was staggering, and I felt as though I was speaking from deep inside a head stuffed with cotton.
“Why didn’t they tell us?” I asked. “Why did they conceal it from us?”
“It is none of our business,” Latynina said, again.
I went back to my room, bewildered, and looked at my medals, the medals I had won on top of the graves of my fellow athletes. How horrible! Was it really possible for such a thing to happen? We had all come to Munich to unite the planet in the peaceful harmony of the Olympic Games, and some Arab extremist group had done this vicious, unimaginable thing.
I sat there in a daze. I had so many questions, and there were no answers.Olga Korbut with Ellen Emerson-White, My Story, italics in the original
Recent update: In 2022, Germany agreed to a €28m compensation deal with the relatives of the Israelis who were killed.
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