Wilma Rudolph

by Meghan Lucatuorto

"Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us." -Wilma Rudolph ( ()) ( ())

Wilma Rudolph once said "The triumph can't be had without the struggle."(Markland). Wilma's entire life was a struggle. Directly after Rudolph was born, her family moved to a wood frame house with no electricity or indoor plumbing. She was the 20th child out of 22 (Markland). When Rudolph was four years old, she caught a mild case of polio causing her left leg to shrink, making it impossible for her to walk. The Rudolph family had little money, but every week Wilma and her mom still took a 50-mile bus ride to take her to the hospital for leg therapy. Her family tried everything such as massaging her leg every day. The doctors still told them she would never be able to walk on her own (Mann). Of course, that didn't stop Rudolph. Rudolph became the first women to win three Olympic gold medals in sprints. Wilma Rudolph should be a hero to everyone due to her determination, confidence, and positivity. ( ()) ( ())

Rudolph always looked at the positive sides of situations which is very hard for some people. Rudolph was able to look down at her brace and realized she no longer needed it. She unbuckled her brace and left it at the church on the steps. One step at a time Rudolph walked to her family with her head up high, very proud of herself (Parker). In her situation most people would tell themselves that they have nothing left and give up, but Wilma had dreams. She looked at it as an opportunity, an opportunity to become mentally, physically, and emotionally stronger. Wilma also shows her positivity through her social life. When she was growing up, Rudolph had scarlet fever, polio, pneumonia, and had leg braces until she was nine. She was very different from all the other kids and was teased constantly by her peers. She was also rarely accepted to play games with the other kids because of her race. Still, she put all of that in the back of her mind and at sixteen ran in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. She returned home with a bronze medal for her effort and was also offered a scholarship (YouTube). Rudolph was a very strong young woman. Instead holding her anger against the kids who teased her, she took all her anger out on her running and recovery. She was so positive about the situation that she was able to ignore what the tormenters said to her and walk away with her head held high. ( ()) ( ())

Rudolph was also very determined at everything she did in life. She was very strong-minded when it came to all the sports that she wanted to play. She was determined to recover from Polio, and once she set her mind to it, there was no going back for Rudolph. For athletes to overcome an illness or injury is not uncommon, but Rudolph had many obstacles to overcome. For most people that have polio, being able to walk would have been a victory, but Rudolph was determined to accomplish more. With the help of her friends and family, Rudolph went from being a woman in a wheelchair to being the world's fastest women (OneFile). Rudolph shows us that when you set your mind to something, anything is possible. She was so determined to overcome polio that she even considered Polio a blessing that made her stronger. She was also very determined to get better so she could be just as athletic as everyone else. When Rudolph saw her sister play basketball she was inspired to play as well. She was so determined that she had to fight her way through painful rehabilitation and physical therapy. The track and field coach for Tennessee State saw Rudolph and recognized her talent. He immediately started to train her as a runner. When she was sixteen she won a bronze medal in the 4x100 relay (Yeager). We can all learn from Rudolph's determination. The doctors told her she was never going to recover, but Rudolph wouldn't take no for an answer. She was determined to get better and because of that determination she was able to make it to the Olympics. Rudolph never stopped trying and kept holding on, even though at times there wasn't much left to hold onto.

Rudolph believed in herself when no one else did. She was very confident and that's why she was able to accomplish anything. Rudolph said, "'I can't are two words that have never been in my vocabulary." Rudolph said years later, "I believe in me more than anything in this world." (One File). When Rudolph met her coach for her Tennessee track team she told him that she wanted to become the fastest woman on the track, on this earth. The coach replied, "With your spirit nobody can stop you" (Robert). With Rudolph's spirit and confidence she was able to accomplish everything she wanted. Her confidence gave her a boost in her self-esteem and made it possible to go out into the world with her very inspirational story. Rudolph's confidence was one of the reasons she became the fastest woman. In many of Rudolph's races, the other runners weren't even close to her. In some races, she was so far ahead that she slowed down in the middle of the race to shout encouragement to her teammates (Mann). She also had to stay true to herself even with all the discouraging comments. Being an African American woman was very difficult at the time, but because of Rudolph's assurance in herself it never slowed her down. She kept her head high and was the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals. (Robert) Rudolph shows us not to listen to what other people say. We always have to keep our chin up and walk away with full confidence in ourselves. ( ()) ( ())

Wilma Rudolph is a hero because of her determination, confidence, and positivity. Even though the doctors, her family, and everybody else watching the Olympics told her she wasn't going to be able to do everything she dreamed of accomplishing, she never listened to any of them. Wilma Rudolph taught me that people in this world are going to tell you that you can't do something and what you have to do in that situation is turn around and say "watch me". Rudolph was a strong independent woman who died of brain cancer at the age 54, in 1994, but her story will live on forever. Wilma Rudolph is an inspiration to me and many other people. This is why, Wilma Rudolph, is my hero.

Works Cited Gale Biography in Context. Pat Parker, n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. Jordan, Robert. Wilma Rudolph: "I can't, are two words that have never been in my vocabulary." N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Vol. 59.3 of Childrens Digest. Mann, Shoshana. "Wilma Rudolph: Triumph on the Track." Wilma Rudolph: Triumph on the Track: n. pag. Gale Biography in Context. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. Markland, Mary E. Great Lives from History: African Americans. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Biography reference center. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. "This Week in Black History." This Week in Black History: n. pag. Gale Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. Wilma Rudolph. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Gale Biography in Context. Web. 7 Mar. 2013. Wilma Rudolph. Youtube. Mrsportshistorian, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. Yeager, Don. "Overcoming Obstacles: Five Athletes Who Refuse to Acknowledge Limitations." Success: n. pag. Gale Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Mar. 2013.

Page created on 5/9/2013 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/9/2013 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.