by Anna Rose Johnson

In honor of 1984 Olympic all-around champion Mary Lou Retton’s birthday, let’s take a look at her famous performances from the Los Angeles Olympics, where she became America’s Sweetheart and joined the ranks of the all-time greats of gymnastics.

Pictured: Kim Zmeskal (left) and Mary Lou Retton

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Mary Lou began the competition on uneven bars, where she performed her breathtaking (but now banned) “Retton flip.” Despite a few form deductions, Mary Lou scored a 9.850 for her concise and creative routine, which included a dismount with amazing amplitude.


Balance beam was considered to be Mary Lou’s weakest event, but she delivered beautifully in the all-around final, completing each element with an unhurried grace. It’s important to note the meticulous attention to detail in each pirouette and pose, a hallmark of this bygone era of 1980s artistry. A solid double back tuck closed out her beam routine, which scored 9.800.


How often do you see such explosive power as Mary Lou demonstrated in her opening tumbling run? Such an incredible double layout, especially followed up by an equally solid full-twisting double back. Mary Lou told us in a 2016 interview that her double layout was most likely her favorite skill to compete. “I was one of the very first women to compete that skill (nearly 35 years ago) on a ‘not-so-spring’ spring floor,” she joked. Mary Lou’s infectious enthusiasm definitely enlivened the American crowd in this memorable Perfect 10 performance.

View this video here!


Every dedicated gym fan has watched this vault dozens of times over the years! Mary Lou’s second 10.0 of the day came in her last two performances, where she sealed her victory with a pair of show-stopping vaults to claim the gold over Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo by a mere 0.05. What a moment for the USA!

View the video here!