FILE PHOTO: Former Olympic Gold medallist gymnast Mary Lou Retton (R) of the U.S. and her former coach Bela Karolyi laugh as they sit next to the floor during the AT&T American Cup gymnastics competition at New York’s Madison Square Garden March 3, 2012.
(Reuters) – U.S. gymnastics icon Mary Lou Retton is “fighting for her life” and has been in an intensive care unit for more than a week battling a rare form of pneumonia, her daughter said on Tuesday.
Retton, 55, has not been able to breathe on her own, her daughter McKenna Kelley said in a post requesting prayers and donations to help the gold-medal winning star of the 1984 Olympics cover her hospital bills. She said Retton is uninsured.
Kelley did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
Fairmont, West Virginia native Retton became the first American woman to win the all-around gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, doing so in dramatic fashion by scoring a perfect 10 on the vault to edge Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo.
Retton also won two silver medals, in the team and vault events, as well as two bronze medals in the uneven bars and floor exercise at the Games all while still a high school student.
Her Olympic success led to a surge in popularity and she became a household name. She was named Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportswoman of the Year” and appeared on Wheaties cereal boxes in the wake of her triumph.
She also won American Cup all-around competitions in 1983, 1984 and 1985 before retiring in 1986.
She went on to make cameo appearances in movies including the 1988 comedy “Scrooged.” She was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997.