Editor's note: Amy Bass (URL), professor of sport studies, is a professor at Manhattanville College and the author of "Not the Triumph but the struggle: The 1968 Olympics, and the Making of the Black Athlete", among other titles. Retton, a physical powerhouse, was the first US success of the now controversial coaching duo Bela Karolyi and Martha Karolyi who decamped from Romania to the US, in 1981. Retton, with her five Olympic Medals, brought US Gymnastics to the forefront. A child of the Cold War, she dominated the world stage in the absence the Soviet boycotting team. Retton continued to build on these transformations and created a foundation that was instrumental in paving the way for Biles' sorcery. Valentina Rodionenko, the Russian coach, criticized Biles for her historic victory, which included naming a fifth element, the Yurchenko dual pike (now the Biles II). Rodionenko said that Biles' victory was a bore. Retton won the gold when she pounded towards the vault. She needed a perfect 10, which she had already nabbed from the floor, to beat RomanianEcaterinaSzabo. When she stuck the vault, a full twisting Tsukahara was the only woman who had done it. She knew, clenched hands overhead, jumping in joy. It was obvious that she felt the gold medal even before she won it. This explosion of power and that seemingly limitless smile continues to fight for its life. It occupies a frightening space, one filled with questions regarding health, insurance, and care. All of us, who have loved and known her for over 40 years, are made to feel more fragile and precarious.
We will continue to follow her, while waiting for updates from the girls, and remembering the moment that was so pivotal. It rivals Brandi's Chastain's goal to beat China in the 1999 World Cup, or Mike Eruzione’s game-winning goal against the Soviets in Lake Placid Winter Olympics 1980, which paved the path for a Gold Medal. We can only wish for another perfect score.