MARY LOU RETTON
Mary Lou Retton was 12 when she competed at the Olympic Festival--then called the Sports Festival--in 1981 at Syracuse, N.Y. It was two years before she teamed up with Olympic Coach Bela Karolyi and three years before she would delight the world with her gold medal performance at the 1984 Olympics.
"It was the first time I was really noticed, and it was a turning point for me," Retton said. "There is a lot of press coverage at the Festival, and it gave me the exposure that I lacked."
It was also a bit awe-inspiring. "I remember watching as Ron Galimore, a gymnast I had only seen in magazines, scored the first perfect 10 on the vault," said Retton, who is a spokesperson for this year's Festival. "It was a big thrill for me."