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Mary Lou Retton

Mary Lou Retton

It came down to the final event. For almost a week, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton, America's best female gymnast, had sparred with Romania's Ecaterina Szabo for the gold medal in all-around gymnastics in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The winner would bear the title of finest woman gymnast in the world.

The competition had been nip and tuck. Then Szabo, a solid international star who rarely made a mistake, twirled around the uneven bars with her usual brilliance, earning a score of 9.90.

Now it was Mary Lou's turn on the vault, the last chance for the 4-foot 9-inch, 92-pound dynamo to take home the gold.

As Mary Lou waited her turn, her personal coach, Bela Karolyi, leaned across the barricade that separated him from the contestants and handed her a piece of paper. On it he had done some arithmetic: "Score a 9.95 and you will tie Szabo for the gold. Score a perfect 10 and you will be the all-around champion. Anything less than 9.95 means second place."

Source: Sullivan, George. Mary Lou Retton. New York:Julian Messner, 1985.

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Famous Sports StarsGymnasticsMary Lou Retton Biography - Inspired By Nadia, Karolyi The Bear, Olympic Visions, Chronology, Mary Lou Retton, Dreams Do Come True - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY RETTON: