At age 16, Mary Lou Retton made history at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles by winning five medals, more than any other athlete. She became the first American to win the gold in the individual all-around competition.
Mary Lou Retton has undergone multiple surgeries.
Mary Lou Retton overcame a setback when she had knee surgery just weeks before the 1984 Olympics. However, this was not the first physical hurdle she had to overcome.
In her 30s, she developed arthritis and joint pain, including in her hips, which made everyday activities difficult. She eventually had to have both of her hips replaced.
Mary Lou Retton sacrificed her teenage years for training.
Mary Lou Retton’s training had long-term impacts on her body. She made other sacrifices as well. She moved from her home in West Virginia to Houston, Texas, to train with Bela Karolyi. Karolyi is a Romanian coach who defected from his home country in 1981. Before his defection, Karolyi coached Nadia Comaneci. Comaneci’s first-ever perfect 10.0 score and three gold medals at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal inspired Retton to work towards similar Olympic achievements.
Retton trained with Karolyi, who was known for being a strict teacher.
Mary Lou Retton’s 27-year marriage ended in divorce.
She returned to competition as a contestant on Season 27 of ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ During the show, she confided in her dance partner, Sasha Farber, that she had recently gone through one of the most challenging times of her life, revealing that she had gone through a divorce.
Retton filed for divorce from her husband, Shannon Kelley, after 27 years of marriage. In November 2017, she filed a restraining order against Kelley to protect herself and their children from his threats.
In October 2023, Mary Lou Retton was hospitalized for a rare form of pneumonia.
She has had several orthopedic surgeries in the past, but this was a new and severe health issue. During a January 2024 interview with Hoda Kotb on Today, Retton discussed the severity of her illness. Her eldest daughter, Shayla Schrepfer, revealed that doctors were unsure if Retton would survive the night, and even during the interview, Retton still required supplemental oxygen. Schrepfer updated people on her mother’s condition through social media.
After spending over a week in the ICU, McKenna Lane Kelley, another of Retton’s daughters, created a crowdfunding page on Spotfund to request prayers and financial assistance for her mother’s hospital expenses. Kelley explained that her mother was unable to breathe on her own and lacked insurance. The campaign raised over $450,000.
During her appearance on Today, Retton clarified her insurance situation. After my divorce and when COVID hit, I couldn’t afford my medical bills. I’ve had over 30 orthopedic operations. The pandemic impacted Retton’s income, as she had fewer speaking engagements. She was about to sign up for health insurance before being hospitalized. We hope for more accessible years ahead for the Olympic star!