American Christians are rallying around one of the nation’s most successful and most popular gymnasts. 55-year-old born again believer Mary Lou Retton has been fighting for her life as she battled a rare form of pneumonia. At one stage she could not breathe on her own and her family had appealed for prayers and finances because she doesn’t have medical insurance.
But they now say Mary Lou is making “remarkable” progress. Her daughters Shayla Schrepfer and McKenna Kelly shared on their social media pages that their mum is “breathing stronger” and “prayers have been felt and have been answered.”
“Although she remains in ICU, her path to recovery is steadily progressing. Her fighting spirit is truly shining! Her breathing is becoming stronger, and her reliance on machines is diminishing. Though it’s a lengthy journey, witnessing these improvements is incredibly heartening! She’s beginning to respond to treatment,” they posted.
Mary Lou has been in the hospital for two weeks after contracting the rare pneumonia. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised in a Spotfund appeal to pay her medical bills.
“My sisters and I are overwhelmed,” her daughter Shayla said. “We didn’t even realise that there’s so many people out there that love her just as much as we do. And it’s been a really hard time for our family, so just seeing that people love her like that, and are showing her that support, it’s just meant the world to us and her.”
As a pint-sized 16-year-old, Mary Lou Retton starred at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and became known as “America’s Sweetheart.” She was the first American to win the gold medal in the individual all-round event, in the absence of Soviet bloc gymnasts.
CBN News reports that Mary Lou has previously spoken about how her faith kept her grounded through the highs and lows of fame. She gives God all the glory for her sporting success and recently said her current relationship with the Lord, is stronger than ever.
“I knew He gave me talent and I knew that He brought [coach] Bela Karolyi into my life to bring that talent out. I give Him all the glory. He gave me something, and I worked for it, but I just praise Him every day for what He has in store for me. He has a purpose for all of us. And I think winning that gold medal and putting me in that public arena was just a small little step of what He has in store for me. I really believe that,” she said.
She also won two silver and two bronze medals at the 1984 Olympics to help bring gymnastics which had long been been dominated by powers like Romania and the Soviet Union into the mainstream of US sport.
Mary Lou was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 1984 and inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997.