MARY LOU: Creating an Olympic Champion by Mary Lou & Bela Karolyi with John Powers Retton
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MARY LOU: Creating an Olympic Champion

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Retton has been wildly popular since 1984 when she became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. This account of her background and training for that event--she was 16 years old at the time--shows why: this is no prima donna, no McEnroe-mold brat. Retton comes across clearly as just one of a family of five physically gifted kids; a determined, single-minded athlete who set her sights on a goal and pursued it relentlessly. She made the wise and lucky choice to train with Karolyi, the exceptional Romanian who also developed Nadia Comaneci. Here, they take turns telling their stories until it all comes together in the end with Retton's Olympic victory. Karolyi left Romania after political problems became insurmountable: the championship gymnastic teams he developed there were at the whim of a government looking for propaganda material. With his wife, Karolyi defected to the US and set up the Houston gymnastics school that attracted Retton from her local trainer in West Virginia. Retton, of course, has less of a life story, but she really is endearing nonetheless. She is straightforward and unaffected; she tell us all about her training and how she works, while acknowledging that this is her entire life--school, a social life, everything else was put aside--and that the non-athlete might find it tedious at best. From Karolyi, we get humor, drama, and some knowledge of gymnastics: young kids are the best gymnasts because they know no fear--""Later, when they start to get into puberty, they begin to think and to become more conservative. 'Wait,' the teen-age girl tells herself. 'I am cute. What for am I falling on my face and bending my nose?' "" From Retton, we learn about the personal side of gymnastics, the wear and tear of training, and about the kind of drive that is necessary for athletic achievement. These two are a dynamite team, and this is a fun accounting.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1985
Publisher: McGraw-Hill