Mary Lou Retton, known as “America’s sweetheart” after the 1984 Olympics
Mary Lou Retton, the inaugural American woman to secure Olympic all-around gymnastics gold, is in a life-threatening battle against a severe illness, as revealed in a fundraiser organized by her daughter, McKenna Lane Kelley. According to Kelley, her mother is suffering from an uncommon form of pneumonia and is reliant on assisted breathing. She has been in the ICU for over a week and lacks insurance coverage, although specific details were not provided.
The funds raised are intended to assist in covering Retton’s mounting medical expenses. Kelley, the second of Retton’s four daughters, is no stranger to gymnastics, having been a gymnast herself at LSU from 2016 to 2019.
Mary Lou Retton continues to be an iconic figure in American gymnastics
At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Mary Lou Retton achieved iconic status by clinching the all-around gold. She also secured silver in the team and vault events, along with bronze in floor exercise and uneven bars. This victory was not only a groundbreaking moment as the first all-around gold for an American woman but also marked the first by any American competitor since Julius Lenhart in 1904. It’s important to note that Lenhart, while representing the United States, was originally an Austrian citizen competing through an American gymnastics club during the early days of the modern Olympics.
Retton’s long-awaited victory was particularly noteworthy due to its dramatic nature. Despite undergoing knee surgery a mere five weeks before the competition, she entered her final rotation, requiring a perfect 10 on the vault to surpass Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo. With determination and precision, Retton executed a flawless landing, ultimately claiming the gold medal.
During a time of Soviet gymnastics dominance, Mary Lou Retton secured a historic win, although the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Games. It wasn’t until 2004 that an American gymnast clinched the all-around gold again, with both Paul Hamm and Carly Patterson earning this prestigious medal.
Retton’s impact on American gymnastics is evident in the subsequent achievements. Patterson initiated the trend, followed by Nastia Liukin in 2008, Gabby Douglas in 2012, Simone Biles in 2016, and Sunisa Lee in 2020, all winning Olympic all-around gold. The American gymnasts, led once more by Biles, aim to uphold this legacy in Paris next year.