I wanted to be Mary Lou

I know exactly what I was doing in the summer of 1984.

I was glued to the family’s Toshiba, watching the Olympics in Los Angeles. Specifically, women’s gymnastics.

Like most of America, I was mesmerized by a dynamic 16-year-old gymnast from Fairmont, West Virginia.

Mary Lou Retton was my idol. She was strong, she was bubbly, and she was only 4-foot-9.

I had a chance.

I remember biting my nails, watching Retton compete for the all-around title, trailing Romania’s Ecaterina Szabó of Romania after two events with only two left. Then this little powerhouse did the unthinkable: she scored perfect 10s on the floor exercise and the vault to win the title by 0.05 points. Even better, she became the first female gymnast from outside Easter Europe to win the Olympic all-around title.

I was sold. Even though I was just nine years old and far from flexible, I was determined to make the 1988 Olympic gymnastics team. I was going to practice in my living room every morning before school and evening after dinner, perfecting my cartwheels and back bends. I had the dance routine down for the floor exercise. I just needed the other equipment — vault, uneven bars, balance beam — and I would be set.

My ambition lasted as long as the Olympics, and it didn’t take long for my Olympic dreams to be replaced by fantasies of winning an Oscar for best original screenplay.

But the fascination with the Olympic Games never went away.

Even now with the London 2012 Olympics going on, I’m constantly flipping channels, getting my fix of beach volleyball, water polo, swimming, soccer, basketball, even archery. I can’t get enough.

Even table tennis has grabbed my attention, as 16-year-old Ariel Hsing nearly caused a major upset as she gave second seed Li Xiaoxia a run for her money. Hsing was eventually defeated. But name me another table tennis athlete — yes, they’re athletes! — who gets hugged afterward by Microsoft founder Bill Gates?

I know about all the politics that surround the Olympics. I see the disparity of wealth among countries. I see the haves and the have-nots. I get it. But I’m still pathetically smitten by it all.

Who’s with me?

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7 Responses to “I wanted to be Mary Lou”

  1. David Jackson July 30, 2012 at 2:35 am #

    Hate to say it but not one minute so far this year… and I used to watch every second of it. To me it is a bad case of the rich versus the poor and it smells too much like professional sports nowadays. Give me Eddie the eagle.

  2. Wes July 30, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    …or the jamaican bobseld team!

  3. gigi-hawaii July 30, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    I watched most of the Opening Ceremony and bits of the subsequent events. I always keep up to date on the events that USA wins. Loved it when USA beat France in basketball. Sorry Michael Phelps didn’t medal in the first swimming event, but he did get a silver in the second. Hopefully, he will win 2 more medals to break the record for athlete with the most medals over all.

  4. Annoddah Dave July 30, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    CAT: Count me in!

  5. Paco July 30, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    I watched some of that table tennis match with Hsing. Impressive for a 16 year old! I’m amazed at the hand eye coordination they have. I didn’t see BIll Gates there though. I love the Olympics!

  6. rayboyjr July 30, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Hey Cat … I’m witcha …

    … I don’t quite remember exactly what I was doing in the summer of 1984 … my very first summer job I think … but I do remember the Olympics … and I remember that I was always glued to the tv … to watch anything and everything … including sports like field hockey … yeah, athletes running around a grassy field with hockey sticks …

    … something about competition between countries … just brings out the wannabe athlete in me … USA … USA … USA … and I get so caught up in the excitement … that the politics, etc. behind it all doesn’t really matter …

    … I like rooting for the undedogs too … and Japan and Korea … heck, I’d love cheering for athletes from the Philippines, Thailand and Samoa if I could find ‘em …

  7. jaydee July 31, 2012 at 3:34 am #

    I DVR’d the opening ceremonies just in case I have insomnia one day. lol

    I’ve been watching but because of the time difference I alredy knew Missy Franklin was going to win the gold and that the U.S. mens gymnastics team was going to drop all the way to 5th.

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