Wilma Rudolph

by Olivia from Columbus

Wilma Rudolph (
Wilma Rudolph (

Heroes are strong. Heroes persevere through anything. Heroes are courageous. Wilma Rudolph is my hero. She had so many obstacles to get through during her lifetime and she overcame them to do what she truly wanted to do. Wilma Rudolph is an inspiration to all those who know what it’s like to be different and even those who don’t.

Wilma Rudolph was born in Clarksville, Tennessee on June 23, 1940. Wilma grew up in Clarksville with her large family. She was the twentieth out of twenty-two children! When Wilma was born she was premature, but she couldn’t receive proper care because she was a black in a heavily segregated time. When she was four she was diagnosed with polio, a disease that makes you unable to walk, and was thought to be incurable. Even though it was a tough time for Wilma’s large family, they were always very supportive and helpful. When Wilma was eight she could already walk with a leg brace. Wilma didn’t give up and with perseverance, she could walk normally by the age of twelve, something the doctors said she would never be able to do.

Wilma was tutored until she was seven because she was crippled. She went to an all black school. In junior high school Wilma started to play basketball. She wasn’t put in a game for three years but during her sophomore year, she played in a game and was spotted by a man named Ed Temple. He was the coach of the Tigerbells, an all woman’s track team at Tennessee State University. He invited her to a summer track camp and she went. When Wilma graduated from high school she received a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. Because Wilma was becoming well known for her track running, she took a year of her studies to compete in international track events. When Wilma returned she received a bachelor’s degree in education.

Wilma went to her first Olympics when she was sixteen. She won third in the 400 meter race. Wilma was the first American woman to win three gold medals at the Olympics in Rome on September 7, 1960. She won the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash, and the 400 meter relay team race. Some of the many awards Wilma received were the Vitalis Cup of Sports Excellence, Woman’s Sport Foundation Award. She was put into the U.S. Hall of Fame and the Black Sports Hall of Fame, and she won the New York Athletic Club Track meet. Wilma has won many more awards and for many of them she was the first woman recipient. Wilma retired from track at age twenty-two. She married Robert Elridge in 1963 and had four children, Yolanda, Djuanna, Robert Jr., and Xurry. Later, she and Robert were divorced. Wilma died of brain cancer at the age of 54 in her home in Nashville, Tennessee on November 12, 1994. June 23 is Wilma Rudolph Day in Tennessee.

Wilma Rudolph formed her own organization to help underprivileged children with sports. After she came home from winning three Olympic gold medals in Rome, her banquet and parade were the first nonsegregated event in Clarksville, ever! She broke down barriers for women and blacks. She never gave up on herself and her example is one everyone can relate to. When I see all the setbacks I feel I have in my life, I can always look back on Wilma and how she faced her obstacles.

Page created on 3/27/2010 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 3/27/2010 12:00:00 AM

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