How DWTS Helped Mary Lou Retton Out Of Her Post-Divorce Funk

Groundbreaking gold medal Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton returned to her athletic performance roots for the first time since her 1986 retirement when she competed in the 27th season of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2018. Retton's stunning transformation was apparent when she joined the competition, but she didn't just find a way to show off the skills that made her one of the most notable athletes of the 1980s. She was also able to find herself again after her divorce from her long-time husband, Shannon Kelley.

In an episode of "DWTS" in November 2018 — the same episode in which she was later eliminated from the competition — Retton revealed that she was divorced. Shortly after, she spoke to People and explained how the dance competition helped her get a fresh start. "I got away and just started over," she said. "[The show] really helped me find that woman that I was searching for. She had gone away, and I knew she was in there — that strong, powerful, confident woman — and I found her."

While Retton was hesitant to reveal her breakup at first, the former Olympian felt that doing so would help her be more authentic and help other women going through similar situations.

Mary Lou Retton wanted to use her struggles to help other women

Former U.S. Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton married Shannon Kelley in December 1990 and privately divorced in February 2018. Retton told "Entertainment Tonight" that she went public with her breakup on "Dancing With the Stars" because she wanted to let others going through a breakup know they weren't alone. "I was dancing and hoping to inspire women," she explained. "That was my group I was focused on, and I hoped that I helped someone out there tonight just by sharing my story."

The award-winning athlete told People she wanted to ensure her divorce announcement was done "in a classy way," as she wasn't interested in badmouthing Kelley. Instead, "It was just to say it in a way that I felt would let people know what I'm going through but yet still do it with loving words. My close-knit people obviously knew, but not a lot of people knew."

Both Retton and Kelley have normally kept details of their personal lives private, and Kelley hasn't released any public statements regarding the split. However, Retton emphasized on "DWTS" that their split was amicable and inevitable, as the couple had begun to grow apart over the course of their marriage.

The former athlete is looking forward to what's next post-divorce

A 22-year-old Mary Lou Retton spoke to the Tampa Bay Times about her future plans ahead of her marriage to Shannon Kelley in 1990, saying, "Three or four years down the road, we want to have children. I want four or five. I grew up in a large family, and I loved it." She also told the newspaper that she sought to "be a good wife and mother." Her goals would come to fruition starting in 1995, when the first of her four daughters, Shayla, was born. She later welcomed McKenna, Skyla, and Emma.

Retton's daughters are all grown up and gorgeous now and were cited by the former athlete as being bastions of support throughout her divorce from their father. The athlete told People, "My daughters were amazing. They were angry in the beginning, and any child should be with their family being torn apart — but we've vowed that we would do holidays together, and we're going to try to make it as seamless and as painless as possible. I don't think they were surprised."

As for Retton's love life these days? When Entertainment Tonight asked the former Olympian whether she had plans to reenter the dating pool, Retton giddily responded, "Maybe, I don't know! We'll see when it's ready. I am open to it, of course."