Mary Lou Retton
Inspired By Nadia
Mary Lou was born to Lois and Ronnie Retton. She was the youngest of five children. Growing up in the Retton household meant you were going to be very active. All five of the children would participate in various sports at any given time. Lois described her children as hyper and wanted to channel that energy into something positive. She would take Mary Lou and her sister Shari to West Virginia University for gymnastics once a week. "I would sleep in my leotard on Friday nights because I was so excited about gymnastics on Saturday mornings," Retton shared with Skip Hollands worth of Texas Monthly. Her first pining for Olympic Gold came at the age of four when watching Olga Korbut during the 1972 Olympics. Korbut was gutsy and full of vim and vigor. Retton could identify with Korbut's spirit. Retton was also intrigued with the way Korbut expressed emotion, during the time when the Cold War forced most Russian athletes to show no emotion. When Retton was seven she watched Nadia Comaneci compete in the Olympics and enchant the world with her skill and force. Retton knew she wanted to one day stand on the podium and receive a gold medal.
Retton eventually got to the point where she outgrew the training she was receiving in West Virginia. In 1982 she left home for Houston, Texas. Retton had met Bela Karolyi when competing in Las Vegas, Nevada, and he encouraged her to come train with him. Retton's parents were reluctant at first, believing she was too young to be away from her family. It took a lot of pushing for Retton to convince them that if she did not go to Houston, her career as a gymnast may never come to fruition. Her parents decided she was right, and wanted her to be all she could be.
Retton stayed with a family in Houston whose daughter was in the same program at Karolyi's school. At this point she was training eight to ten hours a day, which left little time for schoolwork. Retton ended up taking correspondence courses, which allowed her to complete her studies at a pace that adhered to her training schedule.
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