Sports Illustrated/Getty ImagesThe 44-year-old, who won the gymnastics all-around title in 1984, is on the USA gymnastics Board of Directors and lives with her husband and four daughters (three of whom are competitive gymnasts) in her hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia.
Retton talked to Parade about her Olympic legacy, instilling her passion in her younger daughters, and more.
On her favorite Olympic memory.
"There are so many, but probably the best moment was after I had stuck the vault for the 10. I knew I had won and Coach Bela rushes down on to the floor and he lifts me up and he says to me, 'You are an Olympic champion.' I still get goosebumps whenever I say that. It was a special moment that we shared. The whole world was watching, but it was just the two of us. I couldn't have done it without him.I may have had the talent, but he pulled that out of me."
On being an Olympic favorite.
"It's been nearly 30 years and people will come up to me. I think there's something about being the first American to win the gold medal in the all-around that has something to do with it. I think that makes it special. Maybe it's because I was just this little kid from West Virginia who nobody thought could do it, and I think as a whole, society we tend to root for the underdog.
On what she's up to today.
"I sit on the USA gymnastics Board of Directors, so I'm very involved in the grassroots efforts of our sport. I still continue to give motivational speeches all over the country, so I'm still fairly busy. When we moved back to West Virginia, I kind of semi-retired. I wanted to choose things that I wanted to do as opposed to doing things because I had to do them."
On looking forward to the Olympics every four years.
"My whole family and I watch it together. We have four daughters — three are competitive gymnasts and one is a competitive cheerleader — so we always look forward to the Olympics."
On the 2012 Gymnastics team.
"We have an extremely solid team. Back in my generation, the Americans were known as the followers, but we really are the leaders now. The whole world is looking to us to see what we're doing, so it's good to know that we are on top."
On her 2005 hip replacement.
"I can still flip, but I'm not really supposed to! The hip replacement was a combination of the pounding that I did to my body and genetics. My father also had his hips replaced. The most important thing is that the pain is now gone."
On getting her daughters involved in gymnastics.
"It's a sport that I love and have fond memories of so it was a very natural step for me to put them in gymnastics. I think that any parent should try their child out at gymnastics."
On her daughters' Olympic aspirations.
"My nine year old will say 'I want to go to the Olympics like you, mommy,' really not knowing all of the work and sacrifice that goes into it, but Olympic aspirations are pretty far away. I'm looking mainly to the college level. College is a real possibility for my girls."
On what it's like to be Mary Lou Retton at a gymnastics event.
"Well, you can imagine I get bombarded every meet that I go to. It's difficult because I'm really just like any other mom; I'm there to watch my kids and it kind of takes away from them. I have a rule when people come up and want autographs and pictures: I decline during the meet and say I'd be happy to sign after the competition. Most people respect that and let me watch my daughters compete, but afterwards, it's a free for all!"
On what her daughters think of her legacy.
"They're very proud of me. They'll go on YouTube and watch the old footage and make fun of my hair and leotard, so they'll bring me back down to earth real quick!"
On how the sport changed since she competed.
"The equipment is so much better and safer, and they're just doing such difficult things. The routines you saw me do 30 years ago are very low level compared to what they're doing today."
On her advice for the London Olympic athletes.
"Enjoy every sing moment because it passes. It's going to be one of the most amazing times of your life and really be aware and stay in the present and really enjoy every fleeting second."
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