Mary Lou Retton was born January 24, 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia, where she would grow up.
After watching Nadia Com─âneci defeat defending Olympic champion Olga Korbut on television at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Retton was inspired to be a champion, too.
She would move to Houston to train under Romanians B├ęla and M├írta K├írolyi, who trained Com─âneci. In 1983, she won the American Cup. In 1984, as just a sophomore in high school, she won another American Cup, the U.S. Nationals and the U.S. Olympic trials. Retton almost didn't make it to the 1984 Summer Olympics, however, after suffering a knee injury and needing surgery just 5 weeks before competition. She would fortunately recover just in time.
And what happened at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles is one of the most memorable moments in U.S. Olympic history. Retton was engaged in a close battle with Ecaterina Szabo of Romania for the all-around gold medal, trailing by 0.15 points with two events left. Retton would score a perfect 10 on both the floor exercise and the vault. The vault was one of the most dramatic performances in Olympic history:
Retton won the gold medal by 0.05 points, becoming the first all-around gold medalist in American history, and the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the individual all-around gold. Retton won four additional medals: silver in the team competition and the horse vault, and bronze in the floor exercise and uneven bars.
She was an instant American celebrity and was named Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportswoman of the Year", and appeared on a Wheaties box, and became the cereal's first official spokeswoman.
She had many endorsements later on, and even made cameros in the movies Scrooged and Naked Gun 33Ôůô: The Final Insult.
She retired from gymnastics after winning an unprecedented third American Cup title in 1985.
She still speaks at fundraisers all over the country and is a draw. Here is how that 16-year-old girl back in 1984 looks today:
Happy 47th birthday, Mary Lou Retton.