How Mary Lou Retton’s Daughter Followed In Her Mom’s Footsteps

Mary Lou Retton could tell you a thing or two about a tough battle. After all, the former gymnast was the first U.S. woman to lift the gold medal in the individual all-around competition at the Olympic Games. That fighting spirit served Mary Lou well throughout her career — and was something she even passed along to her daughters. But McKenna Kelley followed her mother in more ways than one.

McKenna's time in the spotlight

In fact, in the spring of 2019, Mary Lou’s second-born daughter, McKenna, was the one in the spotlight. McKenna was 22 years old when she took to the mat at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships.

And as McKenna’s routine began, the announcer reminded viewers that this would be her final time competing with the Louisiana State University team before she graduated. It was a momentous moment for all involved.

She handled the pressure like a champ

Yet while the stakes were high for McKenna, none of the pressure seemed to show on the gymnast’s face. In fact, she actually displayed a smile as she embarked on her floor exercise.

And what happened during the routine left everyone stunned. One member of the audience, in particular, knew just how hard the routine was. After all, she had been in a very similar position 35 years prior.

Mary Lou was inspired as a young girl

Mary Lou grew up in Fairmont, West Virginia, and it was here that the future gold medalist had an epiphany. When Mary Lou was eight years old, she witnessed the 1976 Summer Olympics on TV.

She watched Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci outperform her competitors to become the first in her discipline to ever receive a flawless mark in the history of the Games. And Comaneci’s momentous win inspired Mary Lou to sign up for gymnastics lessons.

She was a natural

In time, Mary Lou dropped out of her high school in Fairmont and moved to Houston, Texas, where Comaneci’s former trainers, Béla and Márta Károlyi, had set up shop. It was a risk worth taking.

Under the Károlyi coaching duo, Mary Lou quickly proved her worth by earning gold at the American Cup and silver at the U.S. Nationals in 1983. She was 15 years old at the time.