Mary Lou “Lion Heart” Retton

*Since it’s Olympic season, although it’s barely televised over here, I just wanted to share a wonderful moment that happened to me in the sea of Simone Biles news.

This is Mary Lou Retton. She’s an Olympic gold medalist in artistic gymnastics. 🏅 She’s an icon. My uncle says she was America’s darling. She changed the face of gymnastics becoming the first American woman to win individual gold, beating the Romanians, who together with the Soviets, had dominated the sport for decades back then. Moreover, I just think she has this bubbly, energetic personality that made everything she did absolutely captivating. It translated on the floor.

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Two nights ago I tweeted that 1984 was a golden year. And part of the reason I love 1984 so much is Mary Lou. Just look at her fire. 🔥 And to my amazement, she acknowledged the tweet! Her verified account. Just to make sure, I checked her likes and it’s not like she’s the type that goes around liking fan tweets, she mostly likes sports related announcements. Boy was I happy. I freaked out for a good 20 minutes. I really appreciate famous people that still acknowledge fans. It’s just a tiny effort on their part but it sure does brighten any fan’s day

I get so teary-eyed every time I watch this. Just listen to Bella Carolli energetically narrate history.

If it isn’t obvious, aside from tennis, artistic gymnastics is my favorite Olympic sport. Every four years, I look forward to seeing people achieve what looks like the impossible and I wish my folks enrolled me in gymnastics classes growing up. Hooray for small, strong people.

But there’s just something about gymnastics back in the day. It was a lot more about form, artistry, creativity, and grace. Today the athletes are inarguably pushed to physical limits, but it’s because the sport has centered on stunts and the difficulty of extreme flips and tricks. Props to Simone Biles for quite literally defying gravity and challenging physics. But I miss the performers. I think Mary Lou was one of the best performers out there and her perfect 10 athleticism that was no accident either. It was also just part of the technique that made up the rest of her show.

She’s such a hero not just because of her gold or perfect 10s but because of her fighting spirit. I just really look up to her flame. You can see it in her eyes and her candidness gives away her passion. Most of all you can see it in her smile.

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Each of us has a fire in our hearts for something. It’s our goal in life to find it and keep it lit.

—Mary Lou Retton

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