Mary Lou Retton illness: Olympic gymnastics legend ‘fighting for her life’ in hospital with pneumonia, daughter says
11 October, 2023
Legendary Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton is “fighting for her life” with a “very rare form of pneumonia,” according to her daughter McKenna Kelley.
In the post on Spotfund, Kelley said Retton, 55, is unable to breathe on her own and has been in ICU for more than a week. She did not post any further details on her mother’s condition, outside of noting that she is not insured.
“We ask that if you could help in any way, that 1) you PRAY! and 2) if you could help us with finances for the hospital bill,” Kelley wrote in the post.
Retton became an Olympics icon in 1984. Retton, 16 at the time, had been a well-known gymnast after winning the American Cup in 1983 and again in 1984. She earned her spot on the U.S. Olympics team after winning the Olympic Trials in 1984, though she sustained several injuries building up to the games in Los Angeles, injuring her knee during a floor routine at a local gymnastics center and injuring her knee again while signing autographs. She required an operation on the knee five weeks before the start of the games.
Regaining her health just before the 1984 Summer Olympics, Retton was close in the all-around competition with Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo, but scored perfect 10s on floor exercise and vault to push her ahead of Szabo by 0.05 points, earning the gold medal in the all-around competition. The win made her the first American woman to be an Olympic all-around champion, and the first woman to do so outside Eastern Europe.
In addition to the gold earned in the all-around competition, she also earned silver medals in the team and vault competitions and bronze in uneven bars and floor exercise to come away from the Olympics in Los Angeles with five total medals.
The victory catapulted Retton to fame and was a major factor in putting gymnastics on the map in the United States, with Grace Lichtenstein writing in The Washington Post in 1985 that the gym of Retton’s coach, Bela Karolyi, tripled in size after the win. Retton also appeared on a box of Wheaties cereal after her win.
Following her gymnastics career, Retton has appeared in various commercials and made an appearance on “Dancing with the Stars,” and had been an adviser on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under President George H.W. Bush.
Kelley is one of Retton’s four children with former Texas quarterback Shannon Kelley. McKenna Kelley, like her mother, was a gymnast, who competed for LSU. She earned three NCAA Championship silver medals as part of the LSU team in 2016, 2017 and 2019.
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