Olympian Mary Lou Retton Suffers Setback in Battle With Rare Form of Pneumonia

By   |  October 20, 2023

By Robin Foster HealthDay Reporter  |  Copyright © 2022 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton has suffered a "scary setback" as she fights a rare type of pneumonia while in the intensive care unit of a hospital, her family said Wednesday.

The 55-year-old, who lives in the Houston area, had been "going on the up and up" earlier this week with loved ones "seeing so much progress," daughter Shayla Kelley Schrepfer posted on Instagram.

"But then yesterday we had a pretty scary setback," Schrepfer added. "She is still in ICU and we're just working through some things as far as her setback goes."

"She had a better day today, which is great, [she's] just really, really exhausted," Schrepfer added. "She is really exhausted."

The hospital where she is being treated has not been disclosed, NBC News reported.

Retton was the first American woman to win the all-around gold medal in women's gymnastics.

The former gymnast became one of America’s most popular athletes after a dazzling performance at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

In a legend-making contest, Retton was five-hundredths of a point behind Ecaterina Szabo from Romania in the final rotation of the competition. She needed a perfect 10 on the vault, and she earned it, which launched her into superstardom.

Retton also won two silvers (for team and vault) and two bronzes (for uneven bars and floor exercise) at that Olympics. It was notable that the Soviet Union, which then dominated women's gymnastics, had boycotted the games, but Retton was still America's idol.

Born in Fairmont, W.Va., Retton started gymnastics early and was training full-time by the time she was just 7, The New York Times reported.

Her break came when she impressed well-known gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi at an Olympics elimination tournament in Reno, Nev., in 1982. Karolyi coached her in the 1984 Olympics.

“I immediately recognized the tremendous physical potential of this little kid,” Karolyi said in a March 1984 interview.

The Olympian was ubiquitous for a time, appearing on a Wheaties box and seen as an inspiration for girls around the nation. She remained the only American woman to win the all-around gymnastics title until 2004 when Carly Patterson earned it.

Retton appeared in various movies and TV shows in the late 1980s and 1990s, including the film “Scrooged.” She has also worked as a motivational speaker encouraging proper nutrition and exercise.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on pneumonia.

SOURCES: NBC News; The New York Times