Ahhh...America's sweetheart back in the 80's. Even to this day people talk about her and her Olympic glory. She is a legend among gymnasts and among Olympians.
Mary Lou Retton was born in Fairmont, West Virginia
. Mary Lou radiated with a big smile and a heart to match it. She claims that her life changed forever when, as an eight-year old, she watched Nadia Comaneci
earn a "Perfect 10
" and three gold medal
s in the Montreal Olympics
At a young age Mary Lou knew she wanted to go to the 1984 Olympics, so she trained hard and did her best from the time she was 14 on. Even after she won her first American Cup Championship and American Classics Cup in 1983, people couldn't believe this 93-pound pixie of a girl could do the things she did. She was fast, accurate and strong.
As she was winning her second Championship and Classic Cup, she was training hard for the big one. She maybe pushed herself a little too hard. Just months before she was scheduled to appear at the Olympics with the USA Women's Gymnastics team, her knee started to bother. Doctors found that she had broken the cartilage in her knee off and the joints in her knee were locked up. She had to have surgery on her knees and sadly, doctors told her she would not be able to compete in the Olympics. Mary Lou was no doubt, heartbroken. Her dream was being shattered before her very own eyes. Mary Lou said to the doctors with determination, “I’ve made it this far-no one’s going to keep me from trying”. Her rehabilitation took three-weeks where as a normally it would take three-months. Before the Los Angeles Olympics she won a Gold Medal for all-around performance in the 1984 U.S. Championships.
In the Olympics
Anybody who is old enough to remember (which excludes me), remembers her dazzling performance at the Olympics. It was one of those times you wish you could have been there personally if you weren't.
It was the year the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. The Soviets had put up a boycott, so there weren't any Russians competing in any of the events that year. The Russian boycott seemed to devalue Mary Lou's win, for some. Even so, the all-star Romanian team would be a big challenge for the American team. America was hoping for a genuine home win in women's gymnastics and 16 year-old Mary Lou was their answer. But Mary Lou was not the only one who brought hope to the USA. The whole Women's team was strong with Romanian coach Bela Karolyi leading the way.
Mary Lou won a record five medals that week; the most anyone had won in the Women's Gymnastics. She won one Gold Medal for All-Around performance and became the Gold-Medalist in Women's Gymnastics and Olympic Champion. She won a Silver Medal for Team performance and in the Vault event. She won a Bronze medal for Uneven Bars and Floor Exercise.
Her dream had come true.
After the Olympics
Not only was 1984 a big year for Mary Lou, 1985 was also. She won another American Cup and was inducted into the USOC Hall of Fame. She was skyrocketed to stardom. She was on Wheaties boxes and Tampax ads. She had this to say about her own fame, "I could understand people recognizing me if I had purple hair or something, but I'm just a normal teenager. I'm still just Mary Lou."
She has had some small roles in Scrooged and Naked Gun 33 1/3. She now spends most of her time raising her daughter and going around the country as a motivational speaker. In 1990 she married financial analyst Shannon Kelly. She says at this time she has no Olympic ambitions for her daughter right now and she won't push her either.
Even now, Mary Lou Retton's performance is at least mentioned once when the Summer Olympics roll-around. She is a role-model for all aspiring young gymnasts and through her many younger gymnasts have been inspired (such as Kerri Strug). She is a living Olympic legend.
Everything Quests: Athletes and Sports Figures