Mary Lou Retton became the first American to win the Olympic all-around in 1984 -- and she's been a household name ever since.
The 1984 Games:
Retton won the US nationals and Olympic Trials in 1984, but suffered a knee injury which forced her to have surgery six weeks before the Olympics. She recovered in time, and felt lucky to be able to compete at the Games. She told the Los Angeles Times, "We did three months of rehabilitation in two weeks."
Retton had another piece of good luck, competitively, when many of the Eastern European countries decided to boycott the Games. The USSR had the best gymnasts in the world in 1984, and they would not be competing at the Olympics.
Still, the Romanian team was there, and Ecaterina Szabo was leading Retton going into the last rotation. But Szabo was on bars, her weakest event, and Retton was on vault, one of her strongest. Retton needed a 10.0 to win, and she scored exactly that -- sticking a layout full-twisting Tsukahara, one of the most difficult vaults being performed at that time. Watch Mary Lou Retton vault.
Retton also won a silver on vault and bronzes on bars and floor in the individual event finals.
Mary Lou Retton was born on January 24, 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia. She was the youngest of five children born to Lois and Ronnie Retton.
Retton was coached for most of her elite career by Bela Karolyi, and was his first Olympic champion in the United States.
Retton married Shannon Kelley on December 29, 1990. The couple has four girls: Shayla (born April 12, 1995), McKenna (born April 15, 1997), Skyla (born August 9, 2000) and Emma (born June 20, 2002). The family lives in Houston, Texas.
Retton is 4 ft. 9 in. tall.