Wilma Rudolph

by Taylor from San Diego

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Called the fastest woman of her time, Wilma Rudolph sped past the competition.  Who would have known this woman almost died from the crippling diseases she suffered from during her childhood.  Wilma Rudolph was "Born: June 23, 1940 in Bethlehem, Tennessee" (Great Women in Sports). And "Died: November 12, 1994 in Brentwood, Tennessee" (Great Women in Sports). She "was a member of the United States Olympic Hall of Fame and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame" (Encyclopedia of World Biography). "She became the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics, winning the 100- and 200-meter races and the 4x100-meter relay" (Wilma Rudolph: White House Dream Team). In the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.  During her track career, Wilma's many amazing accomplishments were miracles after the childhood she had.  After the success, she used her new fame to create The Wilma Rudolph Foundation which helps young kids with sports and academics.  Wilma Rudolph is a hero because she was a leader and had determination to overcome obstacles on and off the track.

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Wilma had determination to overcome the difficulties in her life and teach the lessons she learned to others.  The Author explains Wilma Rudolph as someone who went through hard times and overcame it:  "At age four she contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever simultaneously and almost died. The illness paralyzed her left leg and she was unable to walk." (Newsmaker). Anyone who had a childhood like Wilma's would have most likely given up hope on being able to walk again and may not have had the willpower to live like she did.  She would not let her difficulties hold her back and stop her dreams from coming true.  With the support of her parents and siblings, she was able to walk at the age of twelve.  An illustration of determination is seen when Wilma reaches her dream:   "Her own organization, the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, is dedicated to promoting amateur athletics." (Great Women in Sports).  Her can-do attitude helped Wilma become a role model to young athletes around the world who were inspired by her accomplishments despite the fact that she was black and female. In that time those two groups were left out of the sports scene but Wilma pushed past the ideas of others and led the way for many athletes after her.  Wilma worked hard for everything she earned and did not take her success for granted.

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Wilma's leadership in sports and controversial issues helped to create a path for those behind her.  Leadership is observed when Wilma used her fame to create a better life for others:  "The triumph can't be had without the struggle. And I know what struggle is. I have spent a lifetime trying to share what it has meant to be a woman first in the world of sports so that other young women have a chance to reach their dreams." (Great Women in Sports).  Wilma used her struggles as a child for motivation to get where she wanted to go, and do what she wanted to do.  She didn't let anything stop her from reaching her goals and she wanted to help other young female athletes do the same.  She wanted to inspire them to reach their full potential and not be held back by racial and gender barriers.  Similarly, Wilma Rudolph: White House Dream Team states that Wilma helped racial division using her success at the Olympic Games: "When she went home to Tennessee, the governor wanted to have a victory parade for her, but Wilma said she would not attend unless blacks and whites were able to go together. Her parade was the first integrated event held in her hometown of Clarksville." (Wilma Rudolph: White House Dream Team).  Wilma wanted to change the ideas of black and white segregation in the South, and used any chance she could get to do so.  She stood up for her beliefs and helped to break down racial ideas in her hometown.  She would rather miss out on her own parade then go to one where her people could not go.  She put her views of change ahead of her success.  Wilma never let barriers stop her from the goals she wanted to reach in her life and made sure others got there too.

Wilma Rudolph throughout her life was committed to reach her dreams and lead others in competition and in life.  She did not waste her fame and money on lavish items and huge houses, but rather to create a better life for those less fortunate who could not get the opportunities they deserved in sports and school.  The foundation she created helps back this up with the work they have done.  Wilma is an inspiration because she was faced with many illnesses as a child and doctors believed she would not be able to walk. She was born premature and could not see the best doctors because of segregation laws in the South.  She was very sick as a child but she overcame the illnesses and shows that anything is possible. She proved them wrong with the help of her family and the will to get better. Her family taught her that love and support is stronger than the hardships in her life.  She took these lessons and taught them to the young athletes she inspired. Wilma never took anything for granted and got what she wanted out of life.  Hard beginnings can lead to great endings if you work for it.  Nothing in life is given and you have to keep going when things get hard to get the results you want. When blessed with success, help others to reach their goals and support them in their dreams of a better life.  A true hero helps others when they can get nothing from them, but rather take joy in letting them reach their potential.

Works Consulted

"Math Challenge." Wilma Rudolph: White House Dream Team. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2013.

Smith, Maureen Margaret. Wilma Rudolph: A Biography. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006.


"Wilma Rudolph Biography." Wilma Rudolph Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2013.

"Wilma Rudolph." Contemporary Black Biography. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1993.Biography In Context. Web. 9 May 2013.

"Wilma Rudolph." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Biography In Context. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

"Wilma Rudolph." Great Women in Sports. Gale, 1996. Biography In Context. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

"Wilma Rudolph." Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale, 1995. Biography In Context. Web. 9 May 2013.

Page created on 5/23/2013 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/23/2013 12:00:00 AM

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