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Gymnast Mary Lou Retton was born January 24, 1968, in Fairmont. She made history at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles when, at 16, she became the first American woman ever to win a gold medal in gymnastics and the first native West Virginia woman to win a gold medal in Olympic competition. Retton was raised in Fairmont, where she attended local schools before moving to Texas to train. Mary Lou Retton Drive in Fairmont is named for the Olympic star.

Her perfect 10 on the vault to win the gold in the all-around gymnastics competition was chosen by NBC as one of the ‘‘Greatest 100 Moments In Olympic History.’’ Retton’s five medals at the 1984 Olympics made her the single biggest American winner, prompting the Associated Press to name her Female Amateur Athlete of the Year and Sports Illustrated to select her as Sportswoman of the Year. She became the first woman to star in Wheaties commercials and was given movie roles in Scrooged and Naked Gun 33 1⁄3. In 1985, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame and later into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She is a member of the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, alongside her gymnast sister Shari Retton Timko and her father, Ronnie Retton, who captained the 1958-59 WVU basketball team that lost the national championship by one point.

Retton has devoted much of her adult life to helping young people. A board member of the Children’s Miracle Network, she remains in demand as a motivational speaker. Retton moved back to Fairmont in 2009 after her husband, Shannon Kelly, was offered a coaching position at Fairmont State University. They returned to Houston in 2012. They have four daughters. She and Kelly were divorced in 2018.

Born with hip dysplasia, Retton had hip replacement surgery in 2005. In 2008, she traveled to Indiana to meet the machinists who made her hip implant. In October 2023, Retton’s daughter McKenna announced publicly that her mother was in critical condition in a Texas hospital with a rare form of pneumonia and lacked health insurance. A crowd-sourcing campaign raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to offset her medical expenses. Within weeks, Retton had made a full recovery and was allowed to return home.

 

e-WV presents West Virginia Public Broadcasting on Mary Lou Retton

This Article was written by Larry Sonis

Last Revised on November 06, 2023

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Sources

Simms, J. T. Women Have Long Sports History. Charleston Daily Mail, 7/6/1999.

Cite This Article

Sonis, Larry "Mary Lou Retton." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 06 November 2023. Web. 15 June 2024.

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