We recently caught up with 1984 Olympic All-Around Champion Mary Lou Retton for a quick chat. In this interview, Retton discusses her daughters’ gymnastics careers, how gymnastics has changed, Rio 2016, and more.

Inside Gymnastics: What have you been up to lately?
Mary Lou Retton: My life is very hectic but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I have four very active, athletic daughters who keep me hopping! Shayla (20) is a junior at Baylor University and competes for the national championship Acro & Tumbling team… McKenna (18) is a freshman gymnast at LSU and will compete for the Tigers starting this year… Skyla (15) is a Level 4 competitive cheerleader and Emma (13) is a level 10/possible elite gymnast who trains and competes for Stars Gymnastics in Houston. All their competitive seasons are AT THE SAME TIME!! It makes for a very busy and crazy time! It’s so much fun! I also continue to travel the country and give motivational speeches and appearances. I sit on the board for USA Gymnastics. My plate is very full.

Inside: Are you excited for McKenna’s first year at LSU?
Mary Lou: I am so excited to watch McKenna compete for LSU! I have my purple and gold ready to go!!!

Inside: Can you tell us a little about McKenna’s journey in elite and what advice you gave her during that process?
Mary Lou: Trying for elite is such a personal choice. One MUST have the internal desire, fight, determination and self-will to do it. My only piece of advice I gave her was “to live her life with NO REGRETS!” I told her that I didn’t want her to look back years from now and “wonder” what could have been. If she really wanted it, she needed to go for it!

Inside: Over the years, the media have called many gymnasts “the next Mary Lou.” Which gymnasts have you felt the biggest connection with?
Mary Lou: Because of my body style/structure I was NOT, as Bela has said about me “not quite a butterfly” LOL. I was a strong and explosive athlete. Gymnasts who are similar in my eyes were Kim Zmeskal, Shawn Johnson and Simone Biles.

Inside: Besides your perfect vaults in the Olympic all-around, what were some of your favorite gymnastics memories?
Mary Lou: Winning three consecutive American Cups (1983-85) and the 1983 Chinichi Cup. I missed the 1983 World Championships due to a broken wrist.

Inside: What was your favorite skill to compete?
Mary Lou: Probably my double layout on floor. I was one of the very first women to compete that skill (nearly 35 years ago) on a “not-so-spring” spring floor! Ha!

Inside: How do you feel gymnastics has changed the most since your competition days?
Mary Lou: The level of difficulty is insane now!! I keep thinking that gymnastics is going to reach a physical limit, but the gymnasts keep getting stronger and more talented.

Inside: Who’s your pick to win the Rio all-around?
Mary Lou: Simone, duh!!!!!!!!!!!

Inside: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Mary Lou: That I love gymnastics…it is woven into every fabric of my life! I feel very blessed and grateful that I am able to share it now with my daughters.


Pictured: Mary Lou Retton (left) with her 1984 teammate Julianne McNamara.

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Anna Rose Johnson writes about women’s artistic and rhythmic gymnastics. She loves Whippets, brownies, and full-twisting double layouts. Her writing portfolio can be viewed at: https://annarosejohnson.contently.com