Mary Lou Retton Chats About Her Isolated College Years and Her Two Titanium Hips

The Olympic medal-winning gymnast shares what it was like growing up in competitive sports and her life today with the Special Olympics.

by Ilyssa Panitz • MORE.com Celebrity Reporter
mary lou retton picture
Photograph: Mary Lou Retton

More: But when you got to school, you couldn’t make friends because of your celebrity status.
MLR: College was a very difficult period in my life. The girls were so mean and cruel. I was used to being on a team, and since I didn’t join a sorority, I really didn’t have a place. Since I wasn’t included, I felt like the outsider.

More: I read somewhere that you put on a lot of weight as a result of this experience.
MLR: Yeah. I was training my entire life, on a strict diet, retired at 18 and then learned at college how a guy will show up at your door at 3 a.m. with a pizza. It was like the greatest thing ever. Plus, I also ate a lot because I was very unhappy in my life.

More: Having triumphed over so many challenges, what do you say to when you talk to kids to give them that eye-of-the-tiger feeling?
MLR: You can achieve anything you set your heart to do. I had naysayers my whole life. You have to believe in yourself. Do not care about what other people say. Don’t let people put limits on you. If I listened to everyone who tried to put limits on me, I would not be where I am today.

More: Tell us about your involvement with the Special Olympics?
MLR: We have been partners since 1984, to be exact. I was drawn to this cause not only because of the athletic side but also because these kids and their families are so special. I am floored by their amazing talents and what these kids can do. Not only do I get to place the medals on them and give them other awards, too, but for everyone who logs onto www.facebook.com/thankyoumom, Procter & Gamble will donate $1 to support these athletes at the summer games in Athens.

More: You know a lot about overcoming obstacles and not being defeated. You were born with a hip disorder and had hip-replacement surgery when you were in your thirties?
MLR: That’s right. I was born with dysplasia hips. My hips were at an angle and not straight, which my surgeon thinks made me a better athlete. But because of all the wear and tear of competing, today I am sitting here now with two titanium hips.

Want MORE? Read our interview with Melissa Rivers.

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First Published May 18, 2011

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