Mary Lou Retton

Hall of Fame
Gallery of Champions

Her dynamic style – and winning smile –forever changed the face of women’s gymnastics.

Born January 24, 1968 in Fairview, West Virginia, Mary Lou Retton’s approach and performance forever changed the image and popularity of women’s gymnastics.

Often described as a “little powerhouse,” Retton’s energetic style brought a new dynamism to the sport, becoming a trademark of recent American Champions. Retton’s solid and muscular body type produced explosive movements that redefined the traditionally delicate women’s gymnastics.

From the beginning of her career, Retton’s style and ability positioned her perfectly to compete against the world’s best athletes. 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 did become the first American woman to win the Chunichi Cup.

Continuing her history-making tear, in 1984, Retton became the first American woman to win an individual Olympic medal. In fact, she took home four: a gold in all-around, silver in vault and bronzes in uneven bars and floor exercise. Retton also took home a silver team medal, giving her more medals than any other athlete at the Olympics that year.

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.

Retton was elected to 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 receives special recognition in the Hall of Fames’ Gallery of Champions.