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




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The african American athlete Wilma Rudolph made background in the 1960 Summer Olympic games in Rome, Italy, once she became the an initial American mrs to win three gold medals in the track and also field competition.


an uphill battle

nearly every circumstance to be stacked versus Wilma Rudolph indigenous the day she was born ~ above June 23, 1940. She father, Ed Rudolph, had actually eleven children by a very first marriage while his second marriage surrendered eight more, of i m sorry Wilma was the fifth. At bear she weighed only four-and-a-half pounds. Her mother, Blanche, a housemaid, feared because that Wilma's survive from the outset. The family lived in tiny St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, a farming community about forty-five mile southeast that Nashville, Tennessee. Quickly after Wilma to be born, the Rudolphs relocated to surrounding Clarksville, Tennessee, wherein they resided in town. Her father operated as a porter on railroad cars, and also her mother cleaned homes six days a week. Older siblings helped treatment for the sickly baby who had actually come right into the civilization prematurely.

at the age of four, Wilma to be severely weakened when she contract polio, a an illness that attacks the central nervous system and also often reasons developmental troubles in children. She made it through the illness, but she shed the usage of she left leg. Experts in Nashville recommended routine massage therapy for the limb, and also Mrs. Rudolph learned it and taught it to some of the older children. Thus, Wilma's legs were massaged a variety of times each day, helping her to gain back strength. Rudolph's to trust may have actually flagged at times in she childhood when it seemed she could spend a lifetime in foot braces or also a wheelchair. V the initiatives of her committed family—and her own steely determination to strengthen herself—she rose from special needs to Olympic glory.


Staged a comeback indigenous physical disability

After five years the treatment, Wilma someday stunned she doctors once she removed her leg braces and also walked through herself. Soon she to be joining she brothers and sisters in basketball gamings in the Rudolph backyard and running street races against other youngsters her age. "By the moment I to be 12," she said the Chicago Tribune, "I was complicated every young in our ar at running, jumping, everything."

Rudolph desperately want to beat high college basketball, but she simply might not convince the coach to placed her top top the team. As soon as she finally worked increase the nerve to ask him for a tryout, that agreed to coach she privately because that ten minutes every morning. Still she was cut in her freshman year. She lastly earned a place on the roster in ~ Burt High college in Clarksville, Mississippi, because the coach want her older sister to play. She father agreed to allow her sister to sign up with the team only if Wilma was permitted to join, too.

Rudolph quickly blossomed right into a good basketball player. As a sophomore she scored 803 point out in twenty-five games, a new state record for a player on a girls' basketball team. She also started running in track meets and also found the her greatest strengths place in the sprint. She was just fourteen when she attracted the attention of Ed Temple, the women's track coach at Tennessee State University. Temple told she she had actually the potential to end up being a great runner, and during the summer division from high college she trained through him and also the students in ~ Tennessee State.


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Wilma Rudolph. Courtesy of the

Library of congress
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one Olympian

The Olympic games were a distant dream come a young afri American mrs in Tennessee. She to be a teenager prior to she even learned what the Olympics were. Rudolph captured on fast, though. In 4 seasons that high school track meets, she never shed 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 gone into Tennessee State university in the autumn of 1957, v the intentionally of majoring in elementary education. All of her preventive time was consumed by running, however. The pace took that is toll, and she uncovered herself too ill to operation through many of the 1958 season. She rebounded in 1959, just to pull a muscle at a an essential meet between the united States and the Soviet Union, the former country comprised of Russia and also several smaller sized nations. Ed Temple, who would prove to it is in a lifelong friend, managed her recovery, and by 1960 Rudolph was prepared to walk to Rome, Italy.

in ~ the 1960 Olympics, Rudolph won all three of she gold medals in very dramatic fashion. In both the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, she finished at least three yards in front of she closest competitor. She bound the civilization record in the 100-meter and set a new Olympic record in the 200. Rudolph likewise brought she 400-meter relay team from behind to win the gold. The French dubbed her "La Gazelle." without question, Rudolph's accomplishments at the 1960 Olympic gamings remain a stand-out power in the history of Olympic competition.


after ~ the fame

Wilma Rudolph came to be an immediate celebrity in Europe and America. Crowds gathered wherever she was scheduled to run. She was offered ticker ice parades, an official invitation come the White residence by President john F. Kennedy (1917–1963), and a dizzying round of dinners, awards, and also television appearances.

Rudolph made one decision that she stuck to firmly: she refused to get involved in the 1964 Olympic games. She felt that she might not be able to duplicate her accomplishment of 1960, and she walk not desire to appear to it is in fading. She retired from amateur athletics in 1963, finished her college work, and also became a college teacher and athletic coach. She additionally became a mother, elevating four children on her own after two divorces.




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Talent didn't walk to garbage

For more than 2 decades, Wilma Rudolph search to send the class she learned about amateur athletics to other young men and women. She to be the writer of an autobiography, Wilma, which was published in 1977—and the subject of a tv movie based on her book. She lectured in every component of America and even offered in 1991 together an ambassador come the europe celebration that the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the wall surface that for three decades separated east from West Berlin, Germany. Rudolph aided to open and run inner-city sporting activities clinics and also served together a consultant to university track teams. She also founded her own organization, the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, devoted to promoting amateur athletics.

Rudolph was a member that the United claims Olympic hall of Fame and the national Track and Field hall of Fame. She travel frequently and was renowned for she motivational speeches come youngsters.

on November 12, 1994, Wilma Rudolph passed away at her home in Brentwood, Tennessee, that a mind tumor. She is made it through by 2 sons, two daughters, 6 sisters, 2 brothers, and a truly inspirational legacy.


For much 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: how Wilma Rudolph came to be the World's more quickly 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.