Olympic legend Mary Lou Retton opens up about dire health scare, nearly put on life support


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Olympic legend Mary Lou Retton opened up on the serious health crisis she endured late last year.

Retton spoke to “Today” for an interview that will air in full on Monday. She talked about how dire the situation was when she was diagnosed with a “rare form of pneumonia” in October.

“This is serious, and this is life, and I’m so grateful to be here,” she told “Today’s” Hoda Kotb. “I am blessed to be here because there was a time when they were about to put me on life support.”

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Mary Lou Retton in action on the balance beam during the women’s all-around team competition at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. (Jerry Cooke/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

The five-time Olympic medalist is on a portable oxygen tank to help her lungs. She said she feels “vulnerable.”

Her family chronicled her fight against the illness and at one point said she was “fighting for her life.” Retton would then write a message on Oct. 31 assuring her fans the worst of it was over.

“I’m beyond blessed to have the opportunity to make this statement. I am overwhelmed with the love and support from the world as I fight,” Retton wrote on Instagram.

“I am forever grateful to you all! I’m with family continuing to slowly recover and staying very positive as I know this recovery is a long and slow process.”

Mary Lou Retton by the pool

Mary Lou Retton at home by the pool, appearing on the ABC Sports TV special “Mary Lou Retton and Julianne McNamara.” (American Broadcasting Companies via Getty Images)

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One of Retton’s daughters said Retton had a “scary setback” while in intensive care, noting upon her release it would be “baby steps” to recovery.

Retton was nicknamed “America’s sweetheart” during her gold medal-winning performance at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. She was just 16 when she scored perfect 10s in the floor exercise and vault in the final two rotations to become the first American woman to win the Olympic all-around title.

She earned five medals that year – one gold, two silver and two bronze.

Mary Lou Retton performs

Mary Lou Retton performs on the balance beam on her way to becoming the first American woman to win the women’s gymnastics individual all-around competition gold medal. (Getty Images)

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After she retired from gymnastics, Retton became a motivational speaker and frequently shared messages about the benefits of proper nutrition and exercise. She also served on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under former President George W. Bush.

Fox News’ Ryan Morik contributed to this report.

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