Mary Lou Retton (born January 24, 1968) was an American gymnast. At the 1984 Summer Olympics, she won five medals, including gold in the individual all-around competition. Her performance made her one of the most popular athletes in the United States.[See video below.]
Inspired by watching Nadia Comăneci on television, Retton took up gymnastics in her hometown of Fairmont. She was initially coached by Gary Rafaloski and Shirley Tranquill. Under their tutelage Mary Lou rose to prominence and won several international meets. As a tune-up for the Olympic Games, Retton 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 won the American Cup in 1983 and placed second at the U.S. Nationals that same year. Retton won the American Classic in 1983 and 1984, as well as Japan’s Chunichi Cup in 1983.
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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. This caused her to undergo an operation five weeks prior to the 1984 Summer Olympics. She recovered just in time for the Olympics in Los Angeles, California. In the competition, 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. 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 also appeared on a Wheaties box, and became the cereal’s first official spokeswoman.
Mary Lou Retton – One of JanetTV.com’s 150 Greatest Female Athletes of All Time!
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