Born: June 23, 1940 St. Bethlehem, Tennessee Died: November 12, 1994 Brentwood, Tennessee african American track and field athlete, sporting activities manager, and coach




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The afri American athlete Wilma Rudolph made background in the 1960 Summer Olympic gamings in Rome, Italy, once she became the first American mrs to win 3 gold medals in the track and also field competition.


an uphill battle

almost every circumstance to be stacked versus Wilma Rudolph native the work she was born top top June 23, 1940. She father, Ed Rudolph, had eleven children by a an initial marriage if his 2nd marriage gave in eight more, of which Wilma to be the fifth. At birth she weighed just four-and-a-half pounds. She mother, Blanche, a housemaid, feared for Wilma's survive from the outset. The family members lived in small St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, a agriculture community around forty-five miles southeast that Nashville, Tennessee. Soon after Wilma was born, the Rudolphs moved to surrounding Clarksville, Tennessee, wherein they stayed in town. She father functioned as a porter on railroad cars, and her mommy cleaned houses six days a week. Enlarge siblings helped care for the sickly baby who had come into the human being prematurely.

at the age of four, Wilma was severely weakened as soon as she contract polio, a condition that assaults the central nervous system and also often reasons developmental troubles in children. She survived the illness, yet she lost the use of she left leg. Professionals in Nashville recommended regime massage treatment for the limb, and also Mrs. Rudolph learned it and taught it to several of the older children. Thus, Wilma's legs to be massaged a number of times every day, helping her to gain back strength. Rudolph's confidence may have actually flagged at time in she childhood as soon as it appeared she can spend a lifetime in leg braces or even a wheelchair. Through the efforts of her devoted family—and her very own steely decision to strengthen herself—she rose from handicap to Olympic glory.


Staged a comeback native physical disability

After five years the treatment, Wilma one day stunned she doctors when she removed her foot braces and walked by herself. Shortly she was joining her brothers and sisters in basketball games in the Rudolph backyard and also running street races against other youngsters her age. "By the moment I to be 12," she said the Chicago Tribune, "I was daunting every boy in our ar at running, jumping, everything."

Rudolph desperately wanted to pat high college basketball, however she simply might not to convince the coach to put her on the team. Once she finally worked up the nerve to ask him because that a tryout, the agreed to coach she privately for ten minutes every morning. Still she was cut in her student in the first year year. She lastly earned a place on the roster at Burt High college in Clarksville, Mississippi, due to the fact that the coach want her older sister come play. She father i agreeed to enable her sister to join the team just if Wilma was permitted to join, too.

Rudolph soon blossomed right into a well basketball player. Together a sophomore she scored 803 point out in twenty-five games, a brand-new state record for a player top top a girls' basketball team. She likewise started running in track meets and also found the her biggest strengths lay in the sprint. She was just fourteen as soon as she attracted the attention of Ed Temple, the women's monitor coach at Tennessee State University. Holy place told she she had the potential to come to be a good runner, and during the summer breaks from high college she trained v him and also the students in ~ Tennessee State.


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Wilma Rudolph. Courtesy of the

Library of congress
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an Olympian

The Olympic gamings were a far-off dream come a young african American mrs in Tennessee. She was a teenager prior to she even learned what the Olympics were. Rudolph caught on fast, though. In four seasons the high institution track meets, she never lost a race. In ~ the tender period of sixteen, she qualified because that the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and came house with a copper medal.

Rudolph entered Tennessee State college in the fall of 1957, through the on purpose of majoring in elementary school education. Every one of her preventive time was consumed through running, however. The speed took that is toll, and also she discovered herself too ill to run through many of the 1958 season. She rebounded in 1959, just to pull a muscle at a crucial meet in between the united States and the Soviet Union, the former country comprised of Russia and also several smaller nations. Ed Temple, who would prove to be a lifelong friend, supervised her recovery, and also by 1960 Rudolph was ready to go to Rome, Italy.

at the 1960 Olympics, Rudolph won all 3 of she gold medals in really dramatic fashion. In both the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, she finished at the very least three yards in front of her closest competitor. She bound the people record in the 100-meter and set a brand-new Olympic document in the 200. Rudolph also brought her 400-meter relay team from behind to success the gold. The French called her "La Gazelle." there is no question, Rudolph's success at the 1960 Olympic games remain a stand-out performance in the background of Olympic competition.


after the fame

Wilma Rudolph became an immediate celebrity in Europe and also America. Crowds gathered where she was reserved to run. She was given ticker ice cream parades, an main invitation come the White house by President man F. Kennedy (1917–1963), and also a dizzying ring of dinners, awards, and television appearances.

Rudolph do one decision that she stuck to firmly: she refused to participate in the 1964 Olympic games. She felt the she might not be able to duplicate her accomplishment of 1960, and also she did not want to appear to it is in fading. She retirement from amateur athletics in 1963, finished her college work, and became a college teacher and also athletic coach. She likewise became a mother, elevating four children on her very own after 2 divorces.




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Talent didn't walk to garbage

For more than 2 decades, Wilma Rudolph seek to send the great she learned around amateur athletics to other young men and women. She was the writer of one autobiography, Wilma, i beg your pardon was released in 1977—and the topic of a tv movie based upon her book. She lectured in every part of America and even offered in 1991 as an ambassador to the european celebration the the dismantling the the Berlin Wall, the wall surface that for three years separated eastern from West Berlin, Germany. Rudolph aided to open and run inner-city sporting activities clinics and also served as a consultant to university track teams. She additionally founded her own organization, the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, committed to fostering amateur athletics.

Rudolph was a member the the United says Olympic hall of Fame and the nationwide Track and also Field hall of Fame. She traveled frequently and also was well known for her motivational speeches come youngsters.

~ above November 12, 1994, Wilma Rudolph died at her residence in Brentwood, Tennessee, that a mind tumor. She is made it through by 2 sons, 2 daughters, six sisters, two brothers, and a important inspirational legacy.


For more Information

Coffey, Wayne. Wilma Rudolph. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch Press, 1993.

Flanagan, Alice K. Wilma Rudolph: Athlete and also Educator. Chicago: Ferguson, 2000.

Krull, Kathleen. Wilma Unlimited: exactly how Wilma Rudolph ended up being the World's fastest Woman. san Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1996.

Ruth, Amy. Wilma Rudolph. Minneapolis: Lerner, 2000.

Sherrow, Victoria. Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Champion. brand-new York: Chelsea House, 1995.