Just a week to go until Opening Ceremonies! I wish it would get here faster. I keep listening to the Olympic theme song and giving myself goosebumps. Just this morning, the Olympic torch entered London, and according to ESPN, it will be repelled from a helicopter into the Tower of London tonight, the official welcome of the torch into the Olympic city. This could not be more exciting!!
So, a lot of you don’t know this about me, but I was once a gymnast. It was for a total of two months back in the late 80s, and I eventually got kicked out because the coaches were afraid I would hurt myself. My lack of real speed and the fact that gravity is not my friend are things that I’ve only recently come to terms with, so needless to say, the realization that I would never be Mary Lou Retton was devastating. But it leads me right into today’s Olympic moment!
Number 7 on our list, Mary Lou Retton and the perfect vault:
Prior to 1984, gymnastics was not America’s strongest sport. It was heavily dominated by Eastern European countries, namely because of the popularity and success of Nadia Comaneci, who earned the first ever perfect 10 in the 1976 Montreal Games. But leading up to the Los Angeles Games, Mary Lou Retton was making a name for herself in the gymnastics world.
After competing in the team all-around event, Retton was in the lead for the individual all-around competition. She was a mere .15 ahead of the favored Ecaterina Szabó of Romania. After one event, the two were tied, and after two events, Szabó took the lead.
Going into the final round, Szabó needed a perfect 10 on the uneven bars to seal the deal. She got a 9.9. A small window had opened for Retton, who had just scored a perfect 10 on the floor exercise. She would need a 9.95 to tie Szabó, a perfect 10.0 to win it.
With an incredible calm about her, Retton steps up to the apparatus, waves to the judges and performs the most perfect vault in the history of the land. Over. Done. Nailed it. Bela Karolyi, who has provided me with years of Olympic comedy, goes bat-shit. Because he was not the official head coach of the American team, he was remanded to the sidelines as an equipment carrier. But his voice is all over every video you’ll watch: “That’s a 10! That’s a 10!” Then he starts hugging everyone within a mile of the arena.
For good measure, Retton elects to take her second vault, and sticks that one too. Like a boss. And there, my friends, is one for the history books. An endearing teenage girl slayed the giant, and became the face of US Olympic sports for years to come.