Getting After It and Moving On: Our Favorite Female Athletes - Yesterday and Today
Mary Lou Retton
The first woman on a Wheaties box has long since retired from the sport that brought her Olympic gold in 1984, but she's still as perky as ever. Whether she's scoring perfect 10s on the floor and vault in the Los Angeles Summer Games or falling to the floor from a piñata in a 2011 Dairy Queen commercial (http://www.sportsonenetwork.com/videos/18334/mary-lou-retton-dairy-queen-commercial), Retton will always be remembered for her exuberant toothy smile and charming southern drawl. The first non-Eastern Bloc female gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title is now a motivational speaker and television commentator. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, a university football coach, and their four daughters.
The 14- year-old Romanian gymnast made 'perfect' look easy. In the 1976 Montreal Summer Games, ponytailed Nadia was the first athlete in Olympic gymnastics history to nail those perfect 10s. Today, at the lithe age of 50, the retired gymnast lives in Oklahoma City, Okla., with former American gymnast Bart Conner and their five-year-old son, Dylan. When she's not running their gymnastics academy, publishing International Gymnast magazine, directing Perfect 10 TV Productions, Inc. and managing Grips, Etc. (their gymnastics supply company), Comaneci is prepping for the Nadia Comaneci International Invitational in Oklahoma City.
Seven American women rallied together at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to stomp Russia and Romania and become the first-ever gold medal gymnastics team for the United States: Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Dominique Dawes, Amy Chow, Amanda Borden, Jaycie Phelps and inspirational Kerri Strug, who stuck a one-legged vault after spraining her ankle in the previous jump. They went their separate ways after appearing on a Wheaties box together and making the talk-show circuit. Strug is now a program manager with the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in Washington, D.C., and just had her first child (Tyler) this year. Texan Moceneau is also married with two kids and will be hitting the road this summer to promote her Go For Gold Gymnasts four-part book series, released by Disney/Hyperion. Miller was considered the most successful member of the Mag7 but retired after a knee injury crushed her chances for the 2000 Sydney Games. She lives with her second husband and their son in Florida while championing a healthy lifestyle after battling ovarian cancer last year. Look for her expert commentary online during the 2012 London Olympics.
The Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century (Sports Illustrated for Women magazine) turned 50 this year. Although it's been 11 years since her last competition, people worldwide still pay to hear her speak. Joyner-Kersee was ranked among the all-time greatest athletes in the women's heptathlon and long jump, winning three gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals at the '84, '88 and '92 Games. She and her husband/former coach Bob Kersee split their time between Los Angeles and St. Louis, where she works with underprivileged youth through the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation.
This softball phenom singlehandedly made it cool to throw like a girl. Finch was First Team All American, National Player of the Year, 2004 Olympic gold medalist for Team USA in softball in Athens, Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, World's Hottest Sports Personality (ESPN), and the list goes on. The athletic beauty retired in 2010 at 29 to concentrate on her family. She and her husband, pitcher Casey Daigle, live in Sulphur, La. with their two young boys, Ace and Diesel. She's a commentator for ESPN, designs the Jennie Finch Collection for Mizuno, and hopes to raise up-and-coming Finches through her 2-day Jennie Finch Softball Camps nationwide.
When Karch Kiraly babysits you because your dad (1968 Olympian Butch May) is out spiking with Bill Walton on a California beach, beach volleyball brilliance is bound to rub off. Two-time Olympic gold medalist May-Treanor took a break after the Beijing Olympics while team-partner Kerri Walsh focused on family. Now that the Achilles tendon injury she received during a Dancing with the Stars rehearsal in 2008 is all healed and, as spokesman for the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (ditchthedrip.com), she's got her nasal allergies under control, May-Treanor has reunited with Walsh for a shot at a third gold nugget at the London Games this summer.
Peggy Fleming did for figure skating what Tom Cruise did for the naval aviation. By winning the only gold medal for the U.S. in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France, the three-time world champion stoked a resurgence in American figure skating. The breast cancer survivor-turned-advocate lives near Los Gatos, Calif., with her dermatologist husband and their two sons. She donates proceeds from their Fleming Jenkins Vineyards & Winery to support breast cancer research.
Since 1984, Torres has competed in five Olympic Games and collected medals the way a poker champ gathers chips. She earned her 12th medal and the title of oldest Olympic female swimmer in 2008 in Beijing, before shoulder and knee surgeries sidelined her in 2010. Torres published a best-selling memoir in 2009, Age is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams At Any Stage In Your Life, and is living her gospel in Coral Springs, Fla. as a single mom, motivational speaker, TV commentator and competitive athlete. She'll be 45 when the London Olympics roll around and, if she makes the team, she'll be the oldest Olympic swimmer in the history of the Games.
Venus & Serena Williams
Venus may be the oldest, but like any good tale of sisterhood the younger Serena Williams is the one raking in the rankings. She and her signature talons snagged her third 'Number One in the World' title in 2009 and many consider her to be the greatest female tennis player in the modern era. If not, at least she's the richest, having won more than $35 million in prize money. The sisters dominated doubles tennis, winning 12 Grand Slam titles, before Venus was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease known as Sjorgen's Syndrome in 2011. Venus is currently working on her MBA and will debut her Olympics Collection line of tennis clothing later this summer. She also owns an interior decorating company in Jupiter, Fla. Serena's got her own clothing line, too, Aneres, and a collection of nail polish colors by OPI called Glam Slam! They both own small stakes in the Miami Dolphins. But don't count either sister out of the London Games just yet.
Mariel Margaret "Mia" Hamm retired from U.S. soccer in 2004, but not before scoring more international goals in her career than any other player in the history of her sport. The Los Angeles resident, high school career counselor, and author is mother to a newborn son and twin 5-year-old girls with former Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. Hamm turned 40 this year but is too busy raising funds to benefit bone-marrow transplant patients (the Mia Hamm Foundation) and playing in celebrity soccer games to slow down.