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SportsWoman's Sports

Mary Lou Retton (Rotundia)

Mary Lou Rottundia was born January 24, 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia, of Italian heritage. Known as Mary Lou Retton. Mary Lou was the youngest of 5 children. Her father, Ronnie, operated a transportation equipment business.

At the age of 8 years old Mary Lou Retton became fascinated with gymnastics watching Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Olympics. When Mary Lou was 14 Nadina’s coach noticed her and offered to coach Mary Lou. She left school and moved to Houston to begin training for the next Olympics.  

At 1984 Summer Olympic games, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton was about to make history. Mary Lou Retton catapulted to international fame and ignited a new era of American dominance in gymnastics during these 1984 Summer Olympics. She became the first American woman to win a gold medal in gymnastics, scoring two perfect 10s along the way.

Even though no American woman had ever won a gold medal in gymnastics before at the 1984 Olympic Summer games, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton was about to make history. In the final events of the women’s all-around, Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo scored a 9.9 on the uneven bars. Mary Lou was trailing with 2 events to go. She would need to score a 10 on the remaining two events to win the gold, The 2 events left were the floor exercise and vault. Mary Lou Retton scored a 10 on the floor exercise. Then as presser mounted and some worries about an injury earlier in her career surfaced. There was silence when Mary Lou started her approach. Her Vault was absolutely perfect and the crowd exploded in cheers, The score appeared, 10! Mary Lou Retton GOLD MEDAL!
Mary Lou would win five medals during the 1984 Olympics, This was also the most medals won by any athlete during the 1984 summer’s games. Besides the Gold in the overall, she won 2 silver medals and 2 bronze.

Her approach, performance, dynamic style – and winning smile – forever changed the image, popularity and face of women’s gymnastics. Often described as a “little powerhouse,” Retton’s energetic style brought a new dynamism to the sport. Retton’s solid and muscular body type produced explosive movements that redefined the traditionally delicate women’s gymnastics. Her style and ability positioned her perfectly to compete against the world’s best athletes.

Prior to Olympics, In 1983, she won the all-around American Cup competition. While she lost her bid for the World Championship due to a wrist injury that year, Retton also became the first American woman to win the Chunichi Cup.

Continuing her history-making tear, in 1984, Mary Lou Retton was adored as much for her radiant smile and enthusiasm as for her performances, Retton was named “Sportswoman of the Year” in 1984 by Sports Illustrated and “Amateur Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press. She was elected to the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985. The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1992. Her enduring legend earned Retton the title “Most Popular Athlete in America” in 1993, almost a decade after her Olympic triumph in Los Angeles. Retton also receives special recognition in the Hall of Fames’ Gallery of Champions.

She was the first woman ever to appear on the iconic Wheaties box. In 1997, Mary Lou was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.

Today, Mary Lou remains deeply involved in the gymnastics community, and she is the mother of four daughters, all of who are accomplished athletes as well.

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