Mary Lou Retton

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Mary Lou Retton
Retton-m.jpg
A portrait of Mary Lou Retton as a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 2004.
Personal information
Nickname(s)America's Sweetheart[1]
Country represented United States
Born (1968-01-24) January 24, 1968 (age 50)
Fairmont, West Virginia
Height4 ft 9 in (145 cm)
Weight93 lb (42 kg)[1]
DisciplineWomen's artistic gymnastics
ClubKarolyi Gym
Former coach(es)Béla Károlyi, Márta Károlyi
RetiredSeptember 29, 1986

Mary Lou Retton (born January 24, 1968) is a retired American gymnast. At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, she won a gold medal in the individual all-around competition, as well as two silver medals and two bronze medals. Her performance made her one of the most popular athletes in the United States.

Retton was the first ever American woman to win the all-around gold medal at the Olympics and was the only one to do so for twenty years. She is credited with being a pioneering figure in American women's gymnastics, including by the four American women who have since equaled her feat consecutively: Carly Patterson (Athens in 2004), Nastia Liukin (2008 in Beijing), Gabby Douglas (2012 in London), and Simone Biles (2016 in Rio de Janeiro). Twice during that span, Americans also took silver as part of a one-two finish: Shawn Johnson in 2008 and Aly Raisman in 2016. Furthermore, prior to Retton's Olympic triumph, no American woman had won all-around gold at the World Championships; since then, eight Americans have done so a combined twelve times - in chronological order, Kim Zmeskal, Shannon Miller (twice), Chellsie Memmel, Shawn Johnson, Bridget Sloan, Jordyn Wieber, Simone Biles (three times), Morgan Hurd, and Biles (a non-consecutive fourth time). Even more impressive is that Retton won her 1984 medals after she had recovered (partially through benefit of surgery) from injuries that otherwise could have ruined her athletic career before it even began, though Retton won her medals at a Games boycotted by the Soviet bloc, the powers in gymnastics at the time.

Personal life[edit]

Mary Lou Retton was born on January 24, 1968, in Fairmont, West Virginia, and is of Italian heritage. (The original family name was "Rotunda.")[2] Her father, Ronnie, operated a coal-industry transportation equipment business. She attended Fairmont Senior High School, but did not graduate.[3] She competed in the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles, California, during her sophomore year of high school.[4] She grew up in a Christian home. She and her family attend Second Baptist Church Houston.[5]

Retton lived in Houston, Texas,[6] until 2009, when her family returned to West Virginia and again moved back to Houston in 2012. She was married to former University of Texas quarterback and Houston real estate developer Shannon Kelley, who now works for the Houston Baptist University athletic department.[7] Together they have four daughters: Shayla (b. 1995), McKenna (b. 1997), a current NCAA gymnast at Louisiana State University, Skyla (b. 2000), and Emma (b. 2002).[8]

Retton divorced her husband in February 2018.

Gymnastics career[edit]

Retton was inspired by watching Nadia Comăneci outshine defending Olympic two-event winner Olga Korbut on television at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, when she herself was eight years of age, and she took up gymnastics in her hometown of Fairmont. She was coached by Gary Rafaloski. She then decided to move to Houston, Texas, to train under Romanians Béla and Márta Károlyi, who had coached Nadia Comăneci before their defection to the United States. Under the Károlyis, Retton soon began to make a name for herself in the U.S., winning the American Cup in 1983 and placing second to Dianne Durham (another Károlyi student) at the US Nationals that same year. Though Retton missed the World Gymnastics Championships in 1983 due to a wrist injury, she won the American Classic in 1983 and 1984, as well as Japan's Chunichi Cup in 1983.

After winning her second American Cup, the U.S. Nationals, and the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1984, Retton suffered a knee injury when she was performing a floor routine at a local gymnastics center. She had sat down to sign autographs when she felt her knee lock, forcing her to undergo an operation five weeks prior to the 1984 Summer Olympics, which were going to be held in Los Angeles—the first time the Summer Olympics had been held in the United States in 52 years.[9] She recovered just in time for this most prestigious of tournaments, and in the competition, which was boycotted by the Soviet bloc nations except for Romania, Retton was engaged in a close battle with Ecaterina Szabo of Romania for the all-around gold medal. Trailing Szabo (after uneven bars and balance beam) by 0.15 with two events to go, Retton scored perfect 10s on floor exercise and vault—the last event in an especially dramatic fashion, as there had been fears that her knee injury and the subsequent surgery might impair her performance.[10] Retton won the all-around gold medal by 0.05 points, beating Szabo and becoming the first American to receive the all-around gold medal. She also became the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the individual all-around gold.

At the same Olympics, Retton won four additional medals: silver in the team competition and the horse vault, and bronze in the floor exercise and uneven bars. For her performance, she was named Sports Illustrated Magazine's "Sportswoman of the Year." She appeared on a Wheaties box, and became the cereal's first official spokeswoman.

In 1985, Retton won the American Cup all-around competition for the third and final time.[11] She retired in 1986.

Post-gymnastics career[edit]

Political views[edit]

President Ronald Reagan and Retton with the U.S. Olympic Team in Los Angeles, 1984

An ardent Christian conservative, she was an outspoken supporter of the Reagan Administration in the United States. She appeared in a variety of televised ads supporting Ronald Reagan as well as appearing at a rally for Reagan's reelection campaign just a month after the Olympics in her home state of West Virginia. Retton delivered the Pledge of Allegiance with fellow former gymnast and 1996 Olympic gold medalist Kerri Strug on the second night of the 2004 Republican National Convention.[12]

Non-sports honors[edit]

Retton's hometown, Fairmont, West Virginia, named a road and a park in the town after her. Having retired from gymnastics after winning an unprecedented third American Cup title in 1985, as noted above, she later had cameo appearances as herself in Scrooged and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.[13]

Retton was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.[14]

In 1993, the Associated Press released results of a sports study[15] in which Retton was statistically tied for first place with fellow Olympian Dorothy Hamill as the most popular athlete in America.[16]

In 1997, Retton was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.[17]

Compensated endorsements[edit]

During the 1990s, Retton worked as a spokeswoman for the US drugstore chain Revco, appearing in advertisements for it.[18]

Retton has many commercial endorsements, including bowling and shampoo.[19] She was the first female athlete to be pictured on the front of a Wheaties box, and General Mills stated that Wheaties sales improved after her appearance.[20][21][22] She is a frequent analyst for televised gymnastics and attended The University of Texas at Austin after the Olympics.[23]

The USA Gymnastics scandal[edit]

Retton was thrust back into the spotlight when the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal hit the news in 2017. When the Sex Abuse Act of 2017[24] was introduced to the 115th Congress, she and other members of USA Gymnastics met with Senator Dianne Feinstein regarding the Federation's sexual assault policies, with the ultimate aim of blocking the bill.[25]

TV appearances[edit]

Retton on a 1988 Paraguayan stamp

Medical conditions[edit]

Retton was born with hip dysplasia, a condition that her years as a competitive gymnast aggravated. After experiencing increased pain from the condition, she underwent hip replacement surgery on her left hip in her middle thirties. In October 2008, by which time she had reached the age of 40, she visited the Biomet facility in Warsaw, Indiana, and there met the machinists who had produced her hip implant.[33]

Gymnastics legacy[edit]

Retton's routine on the uneven parallel bars included a move that came to be called "The Retton Flip." This consisted of a transition (front flip) from low- to high-bar, resulting in the gymnast perched or "sitting" on top of the high bar. This move, and many others like it, were removed from the Code of Points of artistic gymnastics due to old-style "belly beat" moves having ceased to be used in bars competitions.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Mary Lou Retton. sports-reference.com
  2. ^ "Boston.com Local Search — Boston Globe Archives".
  3. ^ "Mary Lou Retton: Power And Finesse". The New York Times. March 4, 1984. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  4. ^ "Mary Lou Retton: All About Lou". The Christian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  5. ^ Ditchfield, Christin (January 19, 2000). "Mary Lou Retton: Role model, mother, Baptist". Baptist Standard. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "Doing it her way: Mary Lou Retton teaches healthy attitudes to her kids — and, now, the rest of us". Houston Chronicle. July 20, 2008. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
  7. ^ "HBU Huskies – Football Names Shannon Kelley Offensive Assistant Coach". Houston Baptist University. May 11, 2012. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
  8. ^ "Biography". Marylouretton.com. Archived from the original on May 15, 2010. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  9. ^ "Mary Lou Retton". The Biography Channel. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  10. ^ "Mary Lou beams after sticking her vault to capture the all..." ESPN. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  11. ^ Zaccardi, Nick (March 4, 2016). "Mary Lou Retton Reflects On 1985 American Cup Win, Retirement Decision". NBC Sports. Retrieved June 4, 2017.
  12. ^ "Election 2004: Republican Convention Schedule and Viewer's Guide". New York Times. September 1, 2004. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
  13. ^ "Mary Lou Retton". Retrieved August 13, 2008.
  14. ^ Mary Lou Retton. National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, niashf.org
  15. ^ Wilstein, Steve (May 17, 1993) Retton, Hammill most popular American athletes. Associated Press
  16. ^ Athletes. womenssportsfoundation.org
  17. ^ "Mary Lou Retton". International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011.
  18. ^ "Retton joins with Revco in promotional effort". Chain Drug Review. September 10, 1990.
  19. ^ Niewiaroski, Donna (November 3, 1990). "For Retton, the Gold Still Glitters;Pressure, Time and Change Mature '84 Olympic Gymnastics Champion". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 4, 2013. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  20. ^ Wheaties Fun Facts. wheaties.com
  21. ^ "Mary Lou Retton Biography". Biography.com. Retrieved November 13, 2011.
  22. ^ "Prowess alone won't get an athlete on Wheaties". Associated Press. December 26, 1987. Retrieved July 30, 2013. – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  23. ^ Lewis, Jone. "Retton bio". About.com. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
  24. ^ Feinstein, Dianne (February 14, 2018). "Text - S.534 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017".
  25. ^ Macur, Juliet (March 29, 2017). "Facing Congress, Some Sports Officials (Not All) Begin to Confront Sexual Abuse". The New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  26. ^ "Mary Lou Retton. She got the gold. Now she's going for platnum." Billboard. October 5, 1985
  27. ^ [1] Scrooged Cast
  28. ^ Knots Landing: Season 13, Episode 15 "Letting Go" (23 January 1992). IMDb
  29. ^ Baywatch: Season 4, Episode 11 The Child Inside (22 Nov. 1993) . IMDb
  30. ^ Olympic Champion Mary Lou Retton Stars In New PBS Television Series Mary Lou's Flip Flop Shop. houstonpbs.org. December 6, 2010
  31. ^ Jones, Nate (2 February 2014). "Celebrating Every '80s Reference in That RadioShack Super Bowl Commercial". People. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  32. ^ Murphy, Desiree (September 12, 2018). "'Dancing With the Stars' Season 27 Cast Revealed -- Meet the Celebs and Their Pro Partners!". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  33. ^ "Pfizer Inc. (PFE) Launches Nationwide Education Campaign With Olympic Gymnast Mary Lou Retton To Raise Awareness Of Overactive Bladder". Biospace. September 24, 2006. Archived from the original on January 14, 2009. Retrieved August 18, 2008.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Patty Sheehan
Flo Hyman Memorial Award
1995
Succeeded by
Donna de Varona