PROFILE
Name:
Mary Lou Retton
Birth Date:
January 24, 1968
Birth Place:
Fairmont, West Virginia, USA
Nationality:
American
BIOGRAPHY
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Gold Medalist

Background:

American female gymnast Mary Lou Retton became famous as the all-around gold medal winner in women's gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She also won two silver and two bronze medals in individual and team competitions. The West Virginia native retired in 1985 after taking home her third American Cup title. Retton was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985 and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame seven years later. In 1997, she became an inductee of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Retton has appeared in many commercials, including ones for Wheaties and Lipton. She also hosted such TV shows as “American Sportswomen” and “Mary Lou's Flip Flop Shop” (also a co-executive producer).

Retton was born with hip dysplasia and later had hip replacement surgery. She also suffered from a hyperactive bladder and arthritis.

4' 9½” Retton has been married to husband Shannon Kelley since 1990. She is the mother of four girls.

“Gymnastics means fun for my kids! It provides building blocks for life. By allowing my daughters to participate in gymnastics, I am providing them with the tools they will need to be successful in life, regardless of which direction they choose. And with those tools, they can accomplish anything in life.” Mary Lou Retton


Mother of 4

Childhood and Family:

Mary Lou Retton was born on January 24, 1968, in Fairmont, a small coal mining town in West Virginia. Her father, Ronnie, ran a coal-industry transportation equipment business. At age 7, Mary was enrolled in dance class by her mother. She hated ballet, but loved tumbling. After seeing Nadia Comaneci on television, she wanted to become a gymnast.

On December 29, 1990, Mary tied the knot with Shannon Kelley. The couple has four daughters: Shayla Rae (born in 1995), McKenna Lane (born in 1997), Skyla Brae (born in 2000) and Emma Jean (born in 2002). Currently, Mary and her family reside in Houston, Texas.


Wheaties Girl

Career:

Mary Lou Retton developed a passion for gymnastics as a young girl. She began training once a week for an hour with Gary Rafaloski in Fairmont until age 14 when she moved to Houston, Texas. Studying under the world's noted Bela Karolyi, Retton began to gain national notice in 1983 when she won the American Cup and became the runner up in the U.S. Nationals. Although she missed the World Championships that year because of a wrist injury, the 15-year-old girl won the prestigious Chunichi Cup in Japan in 1983.

Retton won her next American Cup in 1984 and her first U.S. Nationals that same year. Her biggest break, however, arrived when she participated in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In the competition, she defeated Romanian Ecaterina Szabó and won a gold medal in the women's all-around. The success made Retton the first female gymnast outside Eastern Europe to win the title. In addition to her gold medal, she also collected silver and bronze medals in the team competition, the horse vault, the floor exercise and the uneven bars. After her dazzling performance, Retton was named Sports Illustrated Magazine's “Sportswoman of the Year” and Associated Press' “Amateur Athlete of the Year” (both 1984). She also became the first spokeswoman for Wheaties cereal.

In 1985, Retton won her third American Cup title. Afterward, she decided to retire from gymnastics.

A Christian conservative, Retton spent the 1980s as a vocal supporter of the Reagan Administration in the United States. She was also featured in a number of televised ads supporting Ronald Reagan.

Following her retirement, Retton began a career in entertainment. Making her TV debut in a 1988 episode of “High Risk,” she branched out to film later that same year with the Richard Donner directed comedy “Scrooged,” playing TV Tiny Tim. In the film, she had the opportunity to act opposite Bill Murray, Karen Allen and John Glover. Later, Retton added hosting gigs to her endeavors with “American Sportswomen” (1995), “The Road to Olympic Gold” (1996) and “Mary Lou's Flip Flop Shop” (2001), which she also co-executive produced.

During the 1990s, Retton was hired as a spokesperson for the U.S. drugstore chain Revco. The ex-Wheaties girl went on to win numerous commercial endorsements and appeared in TV commercials for Lipton (2001), Remax Realtors Supports the Children's Miracle Network (2004) and Sprint PCS (2004) and in print ads for Biomet Manufacturing's M2a-Magnum hip replacement implant (2007).

Retton has also appeared in various TV shows. Among them are “E! True Hollywood Story” (2004), “The Today Show” (2007), “Access Hollywood” (2008) and “The Today Show” (2008).


Awards:

  • Olympics: Gold Medal, All-Around, 1984

  • Olympics: Silver Medal, Team Competition, 1984

  • Olympics: Silver Medal, Vault, 1984

  • Olympics: Bronze Medal, Uneven Bars, 1984

  • Olympics: Bronze Medal, Floor Exercise, 1984

  • American Cup: 1983, 1984, 1985

  • Chunichi Cup: 1983

  • U.S. Gymnastics Federation American Classic: 1983, 1984

  • National Championship: All-Around Title, 1984

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