Winning competitions at an Olympic level is very surreal for the handful of athletes who manage to do so. On one hand, the world will always remember those athletes at the height of their talent and abilities, effectively helping their memory to last forever in our collective consciousness. On the other hand, it’s all too easy for us to lose track of what has happened to our favorite athletes long after their Olympic glory days.
That’s certainly the case with Mary Lou Retton. She made Olympic history back in 1984, and she quietly built an amazing life for herself afterward. But we didn’t know much about what this athlete was up to until her daughter revealed that Retton was suffering from a major and unexpected illness.
What is Reton suffering from, and what can her fans do about it? Keep reading to discover the answers!
Mary Lou Retton’s Olympic accomplishments
If Mary Lou Retton’s name doesn’t immediately ring any bells, you may need to cast your mind back a few decades. In 1984, Retton was an Olympic gymnast, and like the other athletes around her, she dreamed of bringing home the gold. Most athletes, though, end up going home with lesser medals or, more commonly, no medals whatsoever.
Retton, however, performed better than anyone could have expected, including herself. She competed in the individual all-around gymnastics competition and took home the gold. When she did so, Retton did more than make her family and her country proud. She also ended up making history for women throughout America.
How her victory made history for women everywhere
Obviously, getting a gold medal at an Olympic competition is already an amazing achievement in itself. However, Retton’s accomplishment actually helped her make history in a way that women everywhere would be proud of. In fact, she technically made history twice with her medal!
When Retton won her gold medal, it was the first time that any American female Olympian had won the all-around gold medal. It was also the first time that an American woman in the Olympics had won any individual medal in the history of the Olympics. While some athletes only enjoy a kind of fleeting fame after their victories, Retton managed to parlay her own accomplishments into a kind of consistent, low-level fame for the next few years.
Retton’s fame grew throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s
While she didn’t exactly transition to a full-time acting career, Mary Lou Retton began appearing in an increasing number of movies and television shows in the years following her Olympic victory. Typically, she appeared as herself, and you can see her make memorable cameo appearances in movies like Scrooged! as well as TV shows like Dream On and Baywatch.
In fact, Retton was making TV appearances as recently as 2011 when she voiced (appropriately enough) a gym coach on Special Agent Oso. When she wasn’t popping up on our television sets and in our favorite movies, she was busy finding new applications for her athletic skills.
A surprising post-Olympics career
It’s tough to overstate just how big Mary Lou Retton’s career was after she took home the Olympic gold medal in 1984. Just for starters, Sports Illustrated acknowledged her as the Sportsperson of the Year the same year that she made sports history. In the years afterward, she used her fame and reputation to land some very amazing opportunities.
For example, after she formally retired from gymnastics, Retton became a motivational speaker. We imagine she was a natural…after all, who is more inspiring than Retton? Additionally, when George W. Bush was president, she served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
A heartbreaking update from Retton’s daughter
As we said before, we hadn’t really thought about Mary Lou Retton for a long time. That’s why we were floored when her daughter, McKenna Kelley, created a SpotFund to raise money for her mom’s unexpected illness.
According to Kelley, Retton “has a very rare form of pneumonia and is fighting for her life.” Furthermore, “She is not able to breathe on her own” and has “been in the ICU for over a week now.” In the post, Retton’s daughter encourages everyone to pray for her mother’s swift recovery. And in anticipation of the major hospital bills her mother may face, Kelley asked all of the athlete’s fans to donate money to help her mother recover.
A happy ending for this amazing athlete
Initially, we were floored to discover that Mary Lou Retton was fighting for her life in the hospital. It’s downright difficult to imagine someone so healthy and so athletic to be dealing with something like this. Fortunately, this story ended up having a much happier ending than we could ever have imagined.
When McKenna Kelley first set up the SpotFund and began asking for money for her ailing mother, the family was hoping to raise $50,000 to help with bills. They ended up soaring right past that goal very quickly: as of this writing, over $433,000 has been raised to help with her medical recovery. While you can still donate, it’s reassuring to know that this Olympic athlete’s medical bills should be more than taken care of so she can focus on the most important thing: her recovery, and she is currently making wonderful progress!