Wilma Rudolph

by Briella from Boca Raton

Wilma Ridolph in High School (
Wilma Ridolph in High School (

Wilma Rudolph was truly a hero because of her hard work and dedication towards herself and others. Wilma Rudolph once said "Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influences of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion. The potential of greatness lives within each of us."

Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940. She was born in Clarksville, Tennessee. Wilma was born prematurely and only weighed 4.5 pounds. Wilma had to be taken to the doctor when her mother discovered that Wilma's leg and foot became weak and deformed. She was told by the doctor that she had polio, a crippling disease that had no cure. The doctors told Blanche (Wilma's mother) that Wilma would never be able to walk again. Wilma's mother took her twice a week for two years for treatment 90 miles away to straighten her twisted leg. She did this until she was able to walk again without a brace on her leg. Finally, by age 12, she could walk normally without a brace and crutches.

Wilma Rudolph Running (
Wilma Rudolph Running (

Wilma Rudolph never gave up and her first accomplishments were to stay alive and get well. In 1952, 12 year old Rudolph finally achieved her dream of not being recognized as handicapped. Wilma's older sister was on a basketball team and Wilma vowed to follow her footsteps. Wilma was on the basketball team when she was spotted by Tennessee State track and field coach Edward S. Temple. Being discovered by Temple was a major break for a young athlete. The day he saw the 10th grader for the first time, he knew he had found a natural athlete. Wilma had already gained some track experience on Burt High Schools track team two years before. Her running was a way to keep busy between basketball seasons. She got a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. Wilma Rudolph became the schools basketball star by setting state records.

Wilma Rudolph's difficult childhood was truly behind her and in her past. At 16 a new and exciting future began with the Olympics. 1956 she was invited to go to Melbourne Games. There she won an Olympic bronze medal in the 4x100 meter relay. In 1960 she practiced in the Summer Olympics in Rome. She won three gold medals in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 4x100 meter relay. There she was considered the "Fastest Women in History".

After retiring from her track competition she continued to have many accomplishments. After retiring from track, Wilma returned to Clarksville to live. She became a teacher and taught at her school, Cobb Elementary. Since then Rudolph worked hard to promote interest in sports among young women. She founded the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to help underprivileged children. She created the foundation to help an amateur sport program for children who didn't have sport resources in their communities. She served as a consultant on minority affairs at DePauw University in Indiana. She accomplished great things in her lifetime despite her childhood disability. She was able to inspire others throughout her life. On November 12th, 1994 she died from brain cancer. Because of all of her accomplishments and achievements, June 23rd is known as Rudolph day in Tennessee.

Wilma Rudolph was born an African American handicapped girl and became an Historical Olympian. She set goals for herself and succeeded beyond her expectations. She was the first African American and woman athlete to win 3 gold medals. She was a great influence for the African American Athlete. Wilma Rudolph's book called "Wilma Rudolph on Track" was a best seller in 1977. The book inspired many people to do their best and believe that anything is possible. She is an American hero Olympians and non Olympians alike. She served as a U.S. Goodwill Ambassador to French West Africa. Ed Temple, her coach from Tennessee State said "She has done more for our country than what the country could have paid her for".

Page created on 4/1/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/1/2011 12:00:00 AM

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