Wilma Rudolph

by Norma from San Francisco

Wilma Rudolph was a very talented runner. She was born on June 23, 1940. When she was four years old she was diagnosed with polio. This affected Wilma in a big way because she could no longer walk. Many people told Wilma she would never be able to walk again. To make matters worse she came from a very large and poor family with 21 brothers and sisters. Her mother was a maid and her father was a railroad porter.

 (google images)
(google images)

Although many people doubted Wilma ever walking again she kept hope in herself and never gave up her dream of walking. Her mother did everything in her power to help Wilma to walk again. Wilma's mother took her every week on a long bus ride to the hospital where she received therapy. Her brothers and sisters also took turns rubbing her legs four times a day to help Wilma get better. When Wilma got to eight years old she was able to walk with a leg brace. Later she was able to walk with a high-topped shoe to help support her foot when she walked. Her and her brothers played basketball everyday to help Wilma get her exercise. After three years Wilma's mother came home and saw that Wilma was playing basketball all by herself, bare-footed.

Wilma Rudolph - hand-drawn by Norma
Wilma Rudolph - hand-drawn by Norma

Wilma loved playing basketball. A track coach later saw how well she ran. The track coach then encouraged her to start running. In Wilma's senior year of high school she qualified for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. She ran the women's 400-meter relay and received a bronze metal. In 1959 she qualified for the 1960 Olympic games in Rome. She qualified by setting a worlds record in the 200-meter race. At the 1960 Olympics she won two gold medals for the 100-meter race and the 200-meter race. Wilma sprained her ankle but ignored her pain to win the gold medal in the 400-meter relay.

At age 22 Wilma retired from running and went on to coach women's track. Wilma encouraged many young women to fulfill their potential to run. She died on November 12, 1994 from brain cancer.

Many people doubted Wilma ever walking again. She showed them wrong by seeing her psychiatrist, and having her brothers and sisters rub her legs. She eventually got better and could run again. At first she just wanted to play basketball like she could before but then after talking to a track coach she realized that she should challenge herself and join the track team. Because of this Wilma Rudolph is my hero.

Page created on 4/10/2015 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/10/2015 12:00:00 AM

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The MY HERO Gallery - For the Gallery page dedicated to Norma's portrait of Wilma Rudolph.