The First American Woman to Win Gold in the Olympic Gymnastics – Mary Lou Retton

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Retton was born on the 24th of January 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia. Ronnie Retton, being a minor league baseball player and a college basketball player, you can say Retton had the athletic spirit inherited. She was signed up for dance classes by her mother, Lois Retton, at the age of 4 and into the gymnastics classes at West Virginia University.

Gymnast Mary Lou Retton of the United States competes in the balance beam competition
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

She was fully immersed in gymnastics by the age of 12. Her parents sent her to Houston, Texas, at the age of 14 to train under gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi. She enjoyed the hours she put into training. She had to train for 8 to 10 hours a day. In a Texas Monthly magazine interview, she said, “I would sleep in the Leotard on Friday nights because I was so excited about gymnastics on Saturday mornings.”

Retton’s Competitions And Achievements That Made Her The Sweetheart Of America

She was the first contention for the 1984 Olympics when she substituted an injured teammate and won the McDonald’s America cup competitions in 1983. On the day of the Olympics, she had Ecaterina Sabzo of Romania as her rival. On a scale of 10.0, Sabzo got a 9.9, leaving Retton to need a score of 10.0 to win. She, of course, scored a perfect 10.

Gymnast Mary Lou Retton of the United States competes in the floor exercise competition
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

In addition to the gold medal in the all-around event, she won two silver medals and two bronze medals for other individual gymnastic games. This led her to win five awards, which was the most any athlete had ever won in 1984 gymnastics. She went on to win her third American cup title in 1985.

Retton’s Life After Retiring From The Gymnastics Scene

Retton retired from gymnastics at the “Ripe old age of 18” after briefly attending college at the University of Texas, Austin. Retton then did quite a few commercials, appeared in television shows and movies. She was a popular speaker, and she was the spokesperson for the Wheaties box cereal brand.

Mary Lou Retton visits at SiriusXM Studio
Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images

Mary Lou Retton is also a motivational speaker and television commentator. She is now 53 years and is back home in Texas with her family. In a recent Houston sports Q’d up interview, she was asked about her primary job now, to which she said that it is “being a mother.”

Dating, Marriage and the personal life of Retton

At college, she met Shannon Kelley and married him in 1990. They had four daughters, Shayla, McKenna, Skyla, and Emma. Three of her four children continue to do gymnastics at college. She was honored as the first woman inducted into the Houston sports hall of fame. The award was presented to her by her daughters, which was a beautiful moment for the family.

Mary Lou Retton and husband, Shannon Kelley
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

She got a divorce from her husband after 27 years of being together, as they gradually grew apart. In an interview with People Magazine, she said that her daughters were pretty mad about it initially but slowly understood their mother. She also said that she was scared but excited to date again.

Retton’s Philosophies And Some Motivational Sentences

Retton has strong opinions on gender equality in athletics. “Men are great athletes, but us women, we are coming up on our heels, so we want equality,” she said. In her published work ‘Mary Lou Retton’s gateway to happiness: 7 ways to a more peaceful, more prosperous, more satisfying life, she talks about achieving happiness on their own.

Mary Lou Retton poses at
Mary Lou Retton poses at “Dancing with the Stars.”

“Optimism is a happiness magnet. If you stay positive, good things and good people are drawn to you.” “Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it,” are some of the inspiring words she has said.