Mary Lou Retton
Karolyi The Bear
Karolyi had been known for his harsh training style when in Romania. When he defected to the United States with his wife they opened their gymnastic school in Houston. Since being in the States Karolyi had mellowed considerably. He had become "an enthusiastic cheerleader, constantly shouting words of encouragement during competitions, clapping his gymnasts on the back, and rewarding displays of excellence with big bear hugs. Mary Lou responded well to this type of treatment. It psyched her up," wrote George Sullivan in his biography of Retton's life, titled Mary Lou Retton. Karolyi was enamored with Retton's innate ability in gymnastics and could see the energy within her. In Sullivan's book he expressed, "Mary Lou is a little volcano on the floor."
After only one month of Karolyi's tutelage Retton won the all-around title at the Caesar's Palace Invitational. When her team was to attend the McDonald's American Cup Competition at Madison Square Garden, she had not ranked high enough yet to be invited. Retton went with the team as a substitute. Her big break would happen when one of her teammates suffered an injury, rendering her unable to compete. Karolyi put Retton in her teammate's position. "Not only did she win the competition, but she set a meet record of 9.95 points in the vault event," wrote Sullivan. It was this win that put her in contention for the 1984 Olympics, but the months prior to the Olympics would prove to be harrowing ones.
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