Mary Lou Retton (born January 24, 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia) is an American gymnast. She was the first gymnast outside Eastern Europe to win the Olympic all-around title.
Inspired by watching Nadia Com─âneci on television, Retton took up gymnastics. She grew to become the strongest American gymnast in 1983, but missed the World Championships in that year due to an injury. Retton briefly attended Fairmont Senior High School.
Shortly before the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Retton again was injured, but she recovered just in time. In the competition - which was boycotted by most East European nations, except for Romania - Retton engaged in a close battle with Ecaterina Szabˇ of Romania for the all-around title, to the delight of the patriotic audience. Trailing Szabˇ (after bars and beam) with two events to go, Retton scored perfect 10s on floor exercise and vault to win the all-around title by just 0.050.
At the same Olympics, Retton won four additional medals: a silver in the team all-around and the horse vault, and bronzes in the floor exercise and uneven bars. For her performance, she was named Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportswoman of the Year". She is perhaps the most famous face to have appeared on a Wheaties box, and also the first woman to have done so. Her small stature led a wag at Sport magazine to comment that "Her life-size picture now appears on the Wheaties box."
During the 80's, at the height of her popularity, she was an outspoken supporter of the Reagan Administration in the United States. She appeared in a variety of televised ads supporting Ronald Reagan. Though still an outspoken Christian and conservative, she has since denounced Reagan and his years in office stating that had she "known the impact his inability to address the AIDS epidemic would have" she would "never have given him (her) support." Retton did however deliver the Pledge of Allegiance with fellow former gymnast and 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Strug on the fourth night of the 2004 Republican National Convention, and signed a letter expressing support from various U.S. athletes for the re-election of President George W. Bush.
The people in Retton's hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia were very supportive of her Olympic endeavors. A street and park in Fairmont were later named after her. However, Retton rarely mentions her hometown, has made few visits there and tells people that Texas is her home.
Retton retired from gymnastics the following season. She is now married with four daughters, and is a frequent analyst for televised gymnastics.
During the 1990s, she worked as a spokeswoman for the eastern U.S. drugstore chain Revco. In 1997 she was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.