Mary Lou Retton, the first American woman to win the Olympic all-around title in gymnastics, is currently hospitalized and fighting for her life as she battles a rare form of pneumonia. The concerning update comes from Retton’s daughter, McKenna Kelley, who shared on social media that the Olympic icon has been in the intensive care unit for over a week and cannot breathe independently.
Retton’s inspiring journey to Olympic glory made her a household name in the 1980s. Now, her family is appealing for prayers and financial assistance as the uninsured Retton continues her fight.
Retton’s Groundbreaking Olympic Journey
Few Americans were familiar with Mary Lou Retton prior to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. At just 16 years old, the energetic teenager from West Virginia emerged as the star of the Games.
Retton put on a dazzling performance, showcasing athleticism and artistry well beyond her years. She earned perfect 10 scores on vault and floor exercise. With her all-around total, Retton edged out Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo to become the first American woman to claim Olympic all-around gold in gymnastics.
Her landmark achievement shattered the decades-long stranglehold of the sport by Eastern European powerhouses. It also launched Retton to stardom back home, where she instantly became one of America’s most popular athletes.
Retton added two silver and two bronze medals in the event finals in Los Angeles. Her five total medals tied her for most by any athlete at the 1984 Games.
Retton retired from competitive gymnastics in 1986 at age 18. She remains closely tied to the sport, working as a commentator and analyst for decades.
The mother of four daughters, Retton now resides in Texas. She was on hand at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Assembly just two weeks ago.
Over the years, Retton has also been visible, promoting fitness and various products in television ads and public appearances. Her infectious smile and girl-next-door persona have remained part of her enduring appeal.
Battle With Pneumonia
According to daughter McKenna Kelley, Retton contracted a “very rare form of pneumonia” and has been hospitalized in intensive care for over a week. Kelley shared the update on her Instagram story on October 11, 2022.
Kelley indicated that Retton, now 55, is unable to breathe without assistance. She described her mother as “fighting for her life” as Retton continues treatment for the unspecified pneumonia.
In her social media post, Kelley shared that Retton does not currently have medical insurance. Kelley created a crowdsourcing fundraiser to help the family pay mounting hospital bills during Retton’s ICU stay.
As of October 11, donations surpassed $35,000. Kelley expressed immense gratitude, writing that “absolutely anything” given would provide vital support.
Outpouring of Support
Many fans, former teammates, and those in the gymnastics community expressed shock and concern over the revelation of Retton’s pneumonia battle.
Fellow Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles replied to Kelley’s post with multiple praying hand emojis. Other prominent gymnasts like Nastia Liukin also shared their support.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said its “hearts are with Mary Lou.” The organization is working to provide assistance through its athlete relief fund.
On social media, Retton’s admirers sent an outpouring of prayers and well wishes. Her courageous fight resonates with many who still recall her iconic Olympic performances.
Mary Lou Retton’s gymnastics success at the 1984 Olympics captured the hearts of Americans. Her girl-next-door personality and megawatt smile made Retton an instantly beloved star.
Nearly forty years later, Retton remains the only American woman to have won the Olympic all-around title. She helped elevate gymnastics into a marquee event at the Summer Games.
Retton inspired generations of young gymnasts to chase their Olympic dreams. That includes her own daughters, two of whom went on to compete at the collegiate level.
Now Retton faces her toughest challenge yet in intensive care, battling a severe case of pneumonia. Her family has expressed confidence that with prayers and support, their beloved matriarch will continue displaying the strength and spirit that made her an icon.