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Mary Lou Retton smiling
What To Know About Mary Lou Retton
History - Science
Bad Hips
Retton was born with hip dysplasia, a malformation in which the socket of the hip joint doesn’t cover the ball of the femur, causing the hips to overextend or dislocate.
Retton's hip dysplasia went undiagnosed well into adulthood, after her days as an athlete were over. By that point, Retton required a total replacement of both hips.
During her high school freshman year, Retton’s parents withdrew her and sent her alone to Texas from rural West Virginia to train with Comaneci’s coach Bela Karolyi.
"It's a tradeoff," Retton told Sports Illustrated. She went on to win five Olympic medals, and rather than graduate with her high school class, she earned her GED on her own time.
Five weeks before the 1984 Olympics, Retton had trouble getting off the floor while signing autographs. Doctors said surgery was needed to fix broken cartilage in her knee.
After a successful procedure, Retton faced what is meant to be a three-month-long recovery process with only three weeks left until the games began, and was able to compete.
An Asterisk
Retton’s 1984 Olympic gold medal victory carries some controversy given the state of international gymnastics competition and international politics in the 1980s.
The 1984 Olympic games in L.A. were seen as more hospitable for American athletes during scoring and some reigning champions didn’t defend their titles due to political boycotts.
Out On Top
After the Los Angeles Games, Retton competed in the 1985 American Cup, where she won all four individual events and the all-around title for the third year in a row.
Retton hung up her leotard at the height of her success because she had become a celebrity and managing appearances and autograph signings became as difficult as her training.