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Mary Lou Retton, 55, opens up about devastating effects of life-threatening pneumonia battle in first interview since hospitalization

The celebrated Olympic gymnast spoke with the Today Show's Hoda Kotb

Gymnast Mary Lou Retton visits at SiriusXM Studio on August 9, 2016 in New York City.
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
7 January 2024
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Mary Lou Retton shocked the nation when she was sent to the ICU due to a rare form of pneumonia in October, and now she's finally sharing her side of the story.

The 55-year-old retired gymnast gave her first interview since her hospitalization to Today Show anchor Hoda Kotb, which airs in full on Monday, January 8.

A preview clip from the interview saw Retton sit down with Hoda and her eldest daughter Shayla Schrepfer in their home in Boerne, Texas, where she has been recuperating after spending a month in the ICU.

Mary Lou Retton with Today Show's Hoda Kotb during their sit down interview© NBC News/TODAY
Mary Lou Retton with Today Show's Hoda Kotb during their sit down interview

Hoda commented on the celebrated athlete's state of vulnerability, given she was also using a portable oxygen machine to breathe while her lungs recover, and Retton replied: "Very much so.

"I'm very private and to come out and talk about it…Usually my interviews are 'Oh yes, it felt great to win the Olympics!'"

WATCH: I'm a former Olympian and this is how to reset your career path

She commented on the severity of the disease while still trying to keep her spirits high as her daughter, 28, sat by her and offered her support.

Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton photographed on October 27,  2000 in Houston, TX.© Getty Images
The celebrated Olympic gymnast was hospitalized due to a rare form of pneumonia

"This is serious, and this is life, and I'm so grateful to be here," she told the mother-of-two. "I am blessed to be here because there was a time when they were about to put me on life support."

Retton's four daughters, Shayla, 26-year-old McKenna, 23-year-old Skyla, and 21-year-old Emma, first shared news of their mother's diagnosis through crowdfunding platform Spotfund, encouraging fans to donate towards their mother's hospital stay while revealing she was uninsured.

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Shayla shared updates on her social media page as well, revealing at one point that the sisters had been asked to "prepare for the worst" while updating fans on her rollercoaster journey toward recovery.

Mary Lou Retton's four daughters Shayla, McKayla, Skyla, and Emma© Instagram
She was supported through her diagnosis and recovery by her four daughters, Shayla, McKayla, Skyla, and Emma

Finally, late into October, the five-time Olympic medalist returned home after nearly a month in the ICU, and shared her first statement on October 30 on her Instagram page.

"I'm beyond blessed to have the opportunity to make this statement," she penned. "I am overwhelmed with all the love and support from the world as I fight. I am forever grateful to you all!

MORE: Simone Biles confirms gymnastics comeback after two years, Olympics return

"I'm with family continuing to slowly recover and staying very positive as I know this recovery is a long and slow process," Retton continued. "I appreciate everyone's respect of my privacy at this time."

Gymnast Mary Lou Retton of the United States competes in the balance beam competition in gymnastics during the Games of the XXIII Olympiad in the 1984 Summer Olympics circa 1984 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California.© Getty Images
"This is serious, and this is life, and I'm so grateful to be here. I am blessed to be here because there was a time when they were about to put me on life support."

She concluded by saying: "When the time is right, I will be sharing more information about my health issues and hope I can help others who may face the same battle as me. I love you all."

Retton took to her social media page in November on Thanksgiving to share her gratitude for her family and fans as she continues to heal at home with the support of loved ones.

"As we gather to celebrate this Thanksgiving, my heart is overflowing with profound gratitude. I want to express how truly blessed and thankful I am to be slowly improving and to be home with my girls, especially after my time in the hospital," she wrote.

View post on Instagram

"On this day of giving thanks, I am reminded of the preciousness of life, the love that surrounds me, and the resilience of the human spirit. Each one of you has played a significant role in my journey, and for that, I am eternally grateful."

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