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OLGA'S WOES
Don Yaeger
February 18, 2002
Two years ago Tracy Lee, a deputy in the Gwinnett (Ga.) County sheriff's office, stood at the front door of a house in Duluth and asked the woman inside, "You're not the Olga Korbut, are you?" Lee was delivering legal papers in a minor dispute involving repairs to the legendary Russian gymnast's 3,000-square-foot house. "She was so nice," Lee says. "She took me in and showed me her Olympic memorabilia."
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February 18, 2002

Olga's Woes

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Two years ago Tracy Lee, a deputy in the Gwinnett (Ga.) County sheriff's office, stood at the front door of a house in Duluth and asked the woman inside, "You're not the Olga Korbut, are you?" Lee was delivering legal papers in a minor dispute involving repairs to the legendary Russian gymnast's 3,000-square-foot house. "She was so nice," Lee says. "She took me in and showed me her Olympic memorabilia."

In December, Lee was at that house again, this time to deliver an eviction notice because of missed mortgage payments. Police say that Korbut, 46, who won three gold medals as a 17-year-old at the 1972 Olympics and another in '76, no longer lived there but that her son, Richard Bortkevich, 22, did. On Jan. 10 officials began removing property from the house, including Korbut's Olympic memorabilia—and much more. Federal agents are investigating the discovery of $30,000 in counterfeit bills that was found during the eviction process. Police told SI that child pornography was also found on the premises. "She hasn't lived there for two years," says Andre' Gleen, a part owner of an Atlanta gymnastics facility where Korbut teaches. "She knows nothing about any of this."

That wasn't the only recent embarrassment for Korbut. On Jan. 31, in an unrelated incident, she was arrested and briefly jailed on charges of shoplifting $19 worth of groceries from a supermarket. Through a spokesperson Korbut denied the shoplifting charge, and she refused to comment on the material found in the house.

In 2000 Korbut divorced Leonid Bortkevich, a Russian rock star and Richard's father. (She has remarried and moved to Norcross, Ga.) Leonid kept the Atlanta house and let Richard live there. When no one responded to eviction papers, Lee searched the residence on Feb. 6, which appeared to have been empty for several weeks, and found freshly printed counterfeit $100 bills. A cleaning crew went through the house, removing life-sized photos of Korbut, an oil painting of her as a young gymnast, family albums and dozens of Olympic-related items, and dumped them out on a curb. "There were so many people picking through their stuff, it looked like a feeding frenzy," says neighbor Chuck Webster, who gathered some of the memorabilia and personal effects in hopes of returning them to Korbut.

Last Saturday, Korbut taught a gymnastics class while reporters hovered nearby. As one session ended, she pulled two students aside to tutor them on the final move in every routine—the forced smile.

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