Mary Lou Retton ‘fighting for her life’ with rare form of pneumonia, daughter says

Gymnastics: 1984 Summer Olympics: USA Mary Lou Retton victorious with medal after Women's Individual All-Around competition at Pauley Pavilion.
Los Angeles, CA 8/3/1984
CREDIT: Jerry Cooke (Photo by Jerry Cooke /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
(Set Number: X30344 )

Mary Lou Retton started something in American gymnastics that is still going. (Photo by Jerry Cooke /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Jerry Cooke via Getty Images)

Mary Lou Retton, the first American woman to win all-around gymnastics gold at the Olympics, is “fighting for her life” with a serious illness, according to a fundraiser posted by her daughter.

McKenna Lane Kelley said her mother has “a very rare form of pneumonia and is “not able to breathe on her own. She said Retton has been in the ICU for more than a week and is not insured, but declined to go into further details.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will reportedly go to Retton’s hospital bills.

Kelley is the second of Retton’s four daughters and was a gymnast herself at LSU from 2016 to 2019.

Mary Lou Retton remains an American gymnastics icon

Retton became an American icon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where she won all-around gold, plus silver in the team and vault events and bronze in floor exercise and uneven bars.

In addition to being the first all-around gold for an American woman, it was the first by any American competitor since Julius Lenhart in 1904. It should be noted Lenhart represented the United States, but was an Austrian citizen competing through an American gymnastics club in the modern Olympics’ early days.

The long-awaited victory was particularly dramatic, as Retton, who had undergone knee surgery only five weeks ago, entered her final rotation needing a perfect 10 on the vault to beat Ecaterina Szabo of Romania. Retton stuck her landing to win gold.

Then she did it again:

That win came during a period of dominance by the Soviet Union in gymnastics, but the country was boycotting the Los Angeles Games. No American would win gymnastic all-around gold again until 2004, when Paul Hamm and Carly Patterson both won the sports’ most prestigious medal.

Retton’s legacy can be seen in what American gymnastics has since become. Patterson is the first of five different women to win each Olympic all-around gold, followed by Nastia Liukin in 2008, Gabby Douglas in 2012, Simone Biles in 2016 and Sunisa Lee in 2020. The Americans, led again by Biles, will attempt to continue that streak in Paris next year.

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