Olympic gymnast star Mary Lou Retton slams haters who criticized family for crowdfunding medical bills

Retired Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton has clapped back at “naysayers” who criticized her family for crowdfunding donations for her medical bills.

Branded “America’s Sweetheart,” a 16-year-old Ms Retton dazzled on the Olympic stage and became the first US female gymnast to win an all-round Olympic gold medal in 1984 in Los Angeles.

Four decades on, this October the 56-year-old former athlete fell ill with a rare form of pneumonia and was left fighting for her life in the ICU.

Her daughter McKenna Kelley announced her hospitalisation on Instagram and said that the former star athlete had been unable to pay her medical bills since the Covid-19 pandemic.

The family set up a Spotfund account to raise money to cover their mom’s treatment and donations flooded in.

To date, it has raised almost $460,000 from nearly 10,000 donors, surpassing the initial goal by $390,000.

After weeks in the hospital, Ms Retton was discharged and continues to recover at home.

Mary Lou Retton has spoken out against those who have criticised her daughters
Mary Lou Retton has spoken out against those who have criticised her daughters (NBC Today)

Ms Retton told Entertainment Tonight about the moment that she learned her daughter had set up the crowdfund and cash was rolling in. “I was sobbing,” she said.

While she was elated, the fund received mixed reactions from the public.

“Mary Lou Retton’s daughter has now raised over $300,000 to cover the medical bills of a millionaire conservative who *refused* to buy health insurance,” one person wrote on X.

“Correction! *Millionaire* Mary Lou Retton *CHOSE* not to pay for health care. Now her kids want to protect their inheritance,” another person wrote in a separate post.

Ms Retton pushed back on the attacks on her daughters for trying to help their mom.

“They didn’t deserve that, they were just trying to take care of me. I don’t care about the nay-sayers. There’s trolls everywhere, whatever,” she told Entertainment Tonight.

Mary Lou Retton celebrates her balance beam score at the 1984 Olympic Games in LA
Mary Lou Retton celebrates her balance beam score at the 1984 Olympic Games in LA (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“It’s what makes us America; everybody’s got an opinion. You’re welcome to your opinion,” she said, adding: “But you aren’t in that situation. My daughters stepped up to the plate and they saved my life.”

Ms Retton insisted that the crowdfunded money is only going towards her medical bills and that whatever is left will be donated to the American Lung Association.

While she is better than she was in October, Ms Retton said she is still recovering and has to use portable oxygen apparatus to help her breath while her lungs heal.

Once she regains strength, doctors will perform a biopsy to try and understand what happened, she said.

She is currently hoping to go on tour with her daughter in January 2025 to discuss her life on and off the gymnastics mat, according to Ms Kelley’s Instagram post earlier this month.

“It’s a very long recovery, I’m still on oxygen, and I had a bit of a relapse a while ago, but I’m back and regulated,” she told the outlet.

“It’s just more discouragement than anything because, you know, patience isn’t one of my strong skill sets.”

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