Video and story by Morgan Kilgo | Broadcast Reporter
Mary Lou Retton became the first United States female gymnast to win a gold medal in the individual, all-around competition at the 1984 summer Olympics. Now a retired athlete and mother of four, Retton spoke at Baylor’s acrobatics and tumbling dinner. The dinner was held at McLane stadium where Retton shared her story of becoming an Olympian and the reasons why she supports the rise of acrobatics and tumbling.
“The sport of gymnastics and acro and tumbling takes a tremendous amount of physical strength, but even more mental,” Retton said. “These girls work so hard. They’re just so disciplined and so determined.”
Retton’s oldest daughter, Shayla Kelley, is a senior member on the team. She helped bring home the team’s two national championships. Similar to the way her mom pioneered women’s gymnastics in the United States, Kelley has been a part of the acrobatics and tumbling legacy here at Baylor.
“My mom always told me there’s going to be people that say ‘you can’t do it’,” Kelley said. “Once you push through that, that’s when you get to the brighter side, the greener side.”
For head coach Felecia Mulkey, it was important for Retton to speak to the team and tell her story of what it took to become an Olympian.
“She was 16 when she won the Olympic all-around gold. If that’s not mental strength I don’t know what is,” Mulkey said. “She’s probably the epitome of mental strength.”
When it comes to advice Retton would give to fellow athletes or those pushing through a difficult challenge she said to remember that we learn way more from failures than successes.
“I teach my girls ‘live your life with no regrets’,” Retton said. “You don’t want to wake up when you’re my age, in your forties, and look back and hit yourself because you gave up.”