Mary Lou Retton Bio: Olympics, Gold Medal, Net Worth & Kids

This article was last updated by on

Marry Lou Retton is a retired American gymnast. She won the gold medal in the individual all-around competition at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. MLR also won two silver medals and two bronze medals.

Best known as MLR is quite famous as an athlete for her outstanding performances and was the first woman in America to win a gold medal in gymnastics in 52 years. In January 2020, MLR was the first woman inducted into the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

As a gold medalist, she rose to fame and secured many advertisements and roles in television shows and movies, which must have accumulated a hefty amount. As of 2023, Mary’s net worth is estimated at $8 million.

Mary Lou Retton
Mary Lou Retton (Source:

Besides that, she is quite outspoken politically and supported President Ronald Reagan.

Lou is one of the most famous gymnasts and has received several opportunities because of it. Mary appeared in several commercials for well-known companies and industries.

She has also made appearances in movies and television series.

The athlete received criticism and bad press for standing against a bill protecting young children from sexual abusers. Many have called MLR out for standing against other reforms in the USA Gymnastics.

Before learning about the American gymnast’s life and career details, here are some quick facts about her.

Quick Facts

Full Name Mary Lou Retton
Birth Date January 24, 1968
Birth Place Fairmont, West Virginia, the United States
Nick Name MLR, America’s Sweetheart
Religion Christian
Nationality American
Ethnicity Italian-American
Education Fairmont Senior High School
Horoscope Aquarius
Father’s Name Ronnie Retton
Mother’s Name Lois Retton
Siblings Four
Age 56 Years Old
Height 4 ft 9 in / 145 cm / 1.45 m
Weight 93 lb / 42 kg
Hair Color Brown
Eye Color Dark Brown
Build Athletic
Profession Former Gymnast
Former Team U.S.A.
Club Karolyi Gym
Retired September 29, 1986
Marital Status Divorced
Ex-Husband Shannon Kelley
Kids Four: Shayla, McKenna, Skyla, Emma
Net Worth $8 Million
Social Media Instagram, Twitter
Last Update June 2024

Early Life, Family, And Education

Mary Lou Retton was born in Fairmont, West Virginia, to parents Ronnie Retton and Lois Retton and is the youngest of five children.

Her father was a former collegiate basketball player who played in a minor league. He ran a coal-industry transportation equipment business.

Both of MLR’s parents were active and very enthusiastic about sports and physical activities.

Hence, she took dance classes when she was only four. Then she enrolled in gymnastics classes with her sister Shari Retton.

The former athlete was hard-working and very excited about gymnastics.

She used to sleep in her gym attire the night before her classes at West Virginia University. Similarly, she was inspired by legendary gymnasts such as Olga Korbut and Nadia Comăneci.

When Mary saw them perform on television, she knew she wanted to be a gymnast and win gold medals.

As a result, Retton committed to gymnastics and trained under famous gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi.

Mary Lou Retton
Mary Lou Retton Relaxing (Source: Instagram)

He has trained many Olympic champions and was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997.

Although he is known for his tough-love coaching style, he got gentle when he arrived in America. She thrived under the Romanian-American coach and continuously explored her potential.

Retton attended Fairmont Senior High School. However, she did not graduate, as she was more focused on gymnastics.

The gold medalist moved to Houston, Texas, to train at the Károlyi Gym. She also briefly attended the University of Texas after retiring from gymnastics.

Age, Height, And Weight

The former gymnast turned 56 years old as of 2024.

She takes great care of her health and diet. Hence, despite being in her 50s, she is very fit. Mary is 1.45 meters tall and weighs 93 lb.

Retton has brown hair and dark brown eyes when describing her physical appearance. Unfortunately, her body measurement, shoes, and tattoos (if any) are unavailable now.

The gold medalist belongs to American nationality with Italian-American ethnicity and follows the Christian religion.

Gymnastics Career

Initial Career

The former athlete started training to become a star gymnast when she was only eight and was enrolled at the University of West Virginia. Little did Lois know Mary would grow up to pursue it as a career.

Initially, she trained under Gary Rafaloski in her hometown. However, she felt like she could train better, so she moved to Houston, Texas.

Retton trained under Béla and his wife, Márta Károlyi; under her coaching, she improved overall as a gymnast.

At 15, she won the American Cup and ranked second in the U.S. Nationals.

In 1983 MLR missed the World Gymnastics Championships due to a wrist injury.

But she also won the American Cup, Nationals, and U.S. Olympic Trials, and the gymnast won the 1983 and 1984 American Classic and Japan’s 1983 Chunichi Cup. 

Mary Lou Retton
Mary Lou Retton During The Olympics (Source: Instagram)

Before the 1984 Summer Olympics, she underwent knee surgery to treat her leg injury. Although she feared she might miss the Olympics, the gymnast recovered quickly.

In the first Summer Olympics held in America after 52 years, MLR won her first gold medal. Furthermore, she became the first American woman to win an all-around gold medal.

She performed an ankle vault, and for the final vault, she beautifully performed the very difficult Tsukahara vault.

America’s Sweetheart also won two silver and bronze medals in the Summer Olympics. Popular sports magazine, Sports Illustrated, named her “Sportswoman of the Year.”

Post Gymnastic Career

After winning her third and final American Cup all-around competition in 1985, Mary retired in 1986. After that, she had little experience in movies and television.

Retton appeared in the comedy movie Scrooged, and popular TV series like Glee and Baywatch and was a contestant in 27th season of Dancing With The Stars in 2018.

MLR also had a children’s series called Mary Lou’s Flip Flop. Besides that, she utilized her time to support President Ronald Reagan’s re-election. She was also a part of the 2004 Republican National Convention.

USAG Abuse Scandal 

The former athlete’s name was juggled in 2017 when the USGA’s sex abuse scandal was all over the news. Female athletes accused gym owners, coaches, and staff of sexually abusing them.

It is one of the largest sex abuse scandals in sports history. The biggest face of the scandal was former osteopathic physician Larry Nassar. Furthermore, he is accused of abusing over 250 women.

Most of the women were minors at the time of the abuse. As a result of his actions, the USAG received many lawsuits for ignoring complaints, cover-up, and enabling Nassar.

Many people called for reforms and proper laws in the gymnastics governing body of the United States.

Hence, Senators Dianne Feinstein and John Thune sponsored a bill. It was called the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization of 2017 bill.

The bill protects young athletes from sexual abuse. Moreover, it also promotes a safe environment for their growth.

Along with the USAG, Mary met with Senator Feinstein to convince her not to pass the bill. Subsequently, she was heavily criticized for supporting the organization instead of the abuse survivors. 

Marriage And Kids

Husband And His Career

The former athlete was married to Shannon Kelley. The two were college sweethearts as they met at the University of Texas.

Kelley is a former collegiate football player who played for the Texas Longhorns. Moreover, he served as a starting quarterback for the team. 

He was an outstanding player for the Longhorns and received attention and recognition for his football skills.

However, the athlete did not pursue a football career and graduated with a business degree from Texas.

He also got a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas.

The former Longhorn became a partner at an investment firm and was pretty successful and was a well-established real estate developer in Houston.

Nevertheless, his love for football pulled him back into the game. So, Shannon became a quarterback coach in 2009 for Fairmont State University.

Then he joined California University in 2011 to be their running backs coach. In 2012, the former QB joined Houston Baptist University as an assistant coach; however, as of 2023, Kelly is a head coach.

Marriage, Divorce, And Kids

Mary Lou was only 21 when she got engaged to her former husband. The two got engaged in 1989 and married shortly after. Furthermore, they were married for 28 years before divorcing in February 2018.

The former pair have four daughters: Shayla, McKenna, Skyla, and Emma Kelley.

The former gymnast enrolled all her daughters in gymnastics when they were young. Only three of them stuck with it, while Skyla became a cheerleader. 

MLR’s oldest daughter Shayla did Acrobatics and Tumbling at Baylor University. Moreover, she qualified for many NCATA Individual Championship events.

Likewise, Retton’s second-oldest daughter, McKenna, is a Level 10 gymnast who won the 2014 Nastia Liukin Cup.

Net Worth And Salary

The former athlete has built impressive wealth as a star gymnast.

Retton’s net worth is over $8 million. Moreover, the gymnast was shot to stardom after her iconic win in the 1984 Summer Olympics. As a result, she was endorsed by well-known brands and companies.

She was the first female athlete to make it to the front of the Wheaties Box. The gold medalist also served as a spokesperson for drugstore chain Revco and the pain relief cream Australian Dream. 

Furthermore, she did commercials for them. Besides that, she also appeared in ads for other brands and industries. Mary made cameos in several movies and TV shows. She was also a gymnastics analyst. 

Social Media Presence

The gold medalist is quite active on social media platforms. Hence, she has an Instagram account with 66.8 thousand followers.

She usually shares photos of herself and her children. MLR posted an update in which she bid farewell to her youngest child, Skyla, who was off to college. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Mary Lou Retton (@marylouretton)

Besides that, she congratulated her oldest daughter, Shyla, on her engagement. She has also updated about a golden retriever named Honey, a new family member. 

Popularity Graph

Mary Lou Retton is a former gold medal winner gymnast who won the Olympics for the first time in 52 years.

Mary Lou Retton
Mary Lou Retton Popularity Graph (Source: Google)

The above graph shows Retton‘s popularity over the past twelve months.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

What disease does Mary Lou Retton have?

MLR does not have a disease. However, she was born with an abnormality in her hip joint called hip dysplasia. Due to this abnormality, she has an increased risk of joint dislocation. The condition only grew worse as she became a competitive gymnast. As a result, she underwent hip replacement surgery on her left hip.

Was Mary Lou Retton in Star Wars?

No, the former Olympian was not in Star Wars. But she had appearances in many other films and television shows.

What was Mary Lou Retton famous for?

The former gymnast is famous for being the first American woman to win an individual all-around gold medal. She won the medal in the first Summer Olympics held in America in 52 years. 

Where did Mary Lou Retton go to college?

Mary Lou went to  Fairmont Senior High School but did not complete her study. She was focused more on her career than on her education.

Urusha Niroula
Urusha Niroula
My name is Urusha Niroula. I have been working as a writer at since September 2020. I have always had a great fondness for English writing, speaking, and reading. Furthermore, my hobbies include going on walks and short rides, watching Netflix, and sometimes sitting idly.

Related articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share article

Latest News