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Mary Lou Retton has competed for USA Mary Lou Retton has won 1 gold medal at the Olympic Games Mary Lou Retton has won 2 silver medals at the Olympic Games Mary Lou Retton has won 2 bronze medals at the Olympic Games

Mary Lou Retton (born January 24, 1968) is an Italian-American gymnast and Olympic gold medalist. She was the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the Olympic all-around title, after 14 Eastern Bloc countries boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Personal life[]

Retton was born in Fairmont, West Virginia of Italian heritage (her family's original surname was "Rotunda").[1] Her father, Ronnie, operated a coal-industry transportation equipment business. She attended Fairmont Senior High School, but did not graduate.[2] She competed in the Olympic Games during her sophomore year.[3]

Retton lived in Houston, Texas[4] until 2009, when her family returned to West Virginia. She is married to former Houston real estate developer Shannon Kelley, who now works for the Fairmont State University athletic department. Together they have four daughters: Shayla Rae Kelley (born 1995), McKenna Lane Kelley (born 1997), Skyla Brae Kelley (born 2000), and Emma Jean Kelley (born 2002).[5]

Gymnastics career[]

Inspired by watching Nadia Comăneci on television, Retton 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 Comăneci before their defection to the United States. Under the Károlyis, Retton soon began to make a name for herself in the United States, winning the American Cup in 1983 and placing second to Dianne Durham (another Károlyi student) at the US Nationals that same year. Retton missed the World Championships in 1983 due to a wrist injury. Nevertheless, Retton won the American Classic in 1983 and 1984, as well as Japan's Chunichi Cup in 1983.

After winning her second American Cup, the US Nationals, and the US 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. She recovered just in time for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. In the competition, which was boycotted by the Soviet bloc nations except for Romania, Retton engaged in a close battle with Ecaterina Szabó of Romania for the all-around title. Trailing Szabó (after bars and beam) by 15 hundredths with two events to go, Retton scored perfect 10s on floor exercise and vault to win the all-around title by 0.05 points.

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.

Post-Gymnastics Career[]

A devout Baptist[6] and 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. 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.[7]

Retton's hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia named a road and park in the town after her. She retired from gymnastics after winning an unprecedented third American Cup title in 1985. She later had cameo appearances as herself in Scrooged and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.[8]

During the 1990s, Retton worked as a spokeswoman for the U.S. drugstore chain Revco.[9] Retton was elected to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.[10]

In 1993 the Associated Press released results of a sports study[11] in which Retton was statistically tied for first place with fellow Olympian Dorothy Hamill as the most popular athlete in America.[12]

In 1997, Retton was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.[13]

Retton has many commercial endorsements, including the first appearance by a female on a Wheaties box.[14][15][16] She also fell out of a piñata in a Dairy Queen commercial. She is a frequent analyst for televised gymnastics and attended the University of Texas after the Olympics.[17]'

TV appearances[]

In 1985 Retton hosted ABC Funfit, a series of five-minute segments on physical fitness which were broadcast between Saturday morning cartoons. A record album and diagram booklet was also made of the segments and sold.[18]

In 1993, Retton appeared in the "Baywatch" episode "The Child Inside".[19]

In 2002, Retton starred in the television program Mary Lou's Flip Flop Shop.[20]

In the Fox TV show Glee, Retton is said to be Sue Sylvester's "worst enemy".

In the summer of 2011, Retton appeared in a commercial for Dairy Queen.

Medical conditions and endorsements[]

Retton was born with hip dysplasia, a condition aggravated by her years as a competitive gymnast. After experiencing increased pain she had hip replacement surgery on her left hip in her mid-30s.[21] Retton also suffered from incontinence due to an overactive bladder,[22] arthritis and hemorrhoids. She serves as a paid spokesperson for Biomet and for Pfizer to publicize treatment for these conditions. In October 2008, she visited the Biomet facility in Warsaw, Indiana and met the machinists who produced her hip implant.[21][22]

Gymnastics legacy[]

Retton has an uneven bars move called "The Retton Flip", 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 are no longer in the Code of Points due to belly beating no longer in use on bars.



  1. "Boston.com Local Search — Boston Globe Archives".
  2. "Mary Lou Retton: Power And Finesse", The New York Times, 1984-03-04. Retrieved on 2010-05-12.
  3. CBN Interview: All About Lou
  4. Doing it her way: Mary Lou Retton teaches healthy attitudes to her kids — and, now, the rest of us. Houston Chronicle (2008-07-20). Retrieved on 2008-08-18.
  5. Biography
  6. http://www.baptiststandard.com/2000/1_19/pages/retton.html
  7. Election 2004: Republican Convention Schedule and Viewer's Guide. New York Times (2004-09-01). Retrieved on 2008-08-18.
  8. Mary Lou Retton. Retrieved on 2008-08-13.
  9. "Retton joins with Revco in promotional effort.", Chain Drug Review, 1990-09-10. Retrieved on 2008-08-14.
  10. National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
  11. Retton, Hammill most popular American athletes; Wilstein, Steve, Associated Press; 17 May 1993
  12. http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/Content/Athletes/R/Retton-Mary-Lou.aspx
  13. MARY LOU RETTON. International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Retrieved on May 12, 2007.
  14. Wheaties Fun Facts - Wheaties
  15. Mary Lou Retton Biography - Biography.com
  16. The Best of the Best - The Seven Wheaties Spokespeople
  17. Retton bio. About.com. Retrieved on 2008-07-30.
  18. "Mary Lou Retton. She got the gold. Now she's going for platnum." Billboard. 5 Oct. 1985: 5 http://books.google.com/books?id=DCQEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA5&dq=abc%20funfit&pg=PA5#v=onepage&q&f=false
  19. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0394179/
  20. "Mary Lou's Flip Flop Shop." 06 Dec. 2010. http://www.houstonpbs.org/site/PageServer?pagename=prd_flipflopshop
  21. 21.0 21.1 Mary Lou's Hip Replacement. Retrieved on 2008-08-18.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Pfizer. "Pfizer Inc. (PFE) Launches Nationwide Education Campaign With Olympic Gymnast Mary Lou Retton To Raise Awareness Of Overactive Bladder", Biospace, 2006-09-24. Retrieved on 2008-08-18.

External links[]