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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.

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. Retton is married to Shannon Kelly and devotes her time to helping young people. A board member of the Children’s Miracle Network, she remains in demand as a motivational speaker. Mary Lou Retton Drive in Fairmont is named for the Olympic star.

Retton moved back to Fairmont in 2009 after Shannon Kelly was offered a coaching position at Fairmont State University. They returned to Houston in 2012. They have four daughters, all involved in gymnastics. 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.


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

This Article was written by Larry Sonis

Last Revised on September 02, 2021

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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. 02 September 2021. Web. 29 January 2023.


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