Van Cliburn, the classical pianist honored by a New York ticker-tape parade for winning a major Moscow competition in 1958, suffers from advanced bone cancer, his representative said Tuesday.
"He is under excellent care and resting comfortably at home," said Mary Lou Falcone. "His spirits are high."
Cliburn, 78, won the International Tchaikovsky Competition months after the Soviet Union stunned Americans with the successful launch of the Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth. His victory swelled U.S. pride when it was near a Cold War low.
He was also credited with improving cultural relations between the two superpowers. Cliburn toured the Soviet Union several times through the 1960s during the height of the tensions.
Cliburn, considered one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, performed for every U.S. president since Harry Truman, according to his official biography.