Unable to walk as a kid, it is amazing that she would became the fastest woman in the 19th century.
The Black Gazelle Became The Fastest American Woman on Earth in 1960 with 3 medals in the Olympic Game.
Her nicks were "The Tornado", The Italians nicknamed her "La Gazzella Nera" ("The Black Gazelle") and the French called her "La Perle Noire" ("The Black Pearl"). She was not only strong but beautiful as well
Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win 3 Olympic medals. She has more stars to her ranks as she contributed to American sports with her resilience and activism.
Who is Wilma Rudolph?
Wilma Rudolph, one of the athletes of the 1960 Rome Olympics who emerged as the fastest woman on earth was in limelight along with other 1960 Olympic athletes such as Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Oscar Robertson, and Rafer Johnson. She was born June 23, 1940 at Tennessee in USA to a polygamous African American father who had two wives. She was number 20 of 22 children (Two soccer teams right?)
This actually gives me motivation in trying times which I currently am while writing this.
She was born a premature child who with a weight of 4.5 pounds. The average birth weight in babies is between 5.5 pounds and 11 pounds so you can imagine the complications that come with a lower weight.
Wilma had some illnesses which threatened her childhood. She was ill with scarlet fever, pneumonia and infantile paralysis as a result of the poliovirus. Poliovirus is a very deadly disease. It usually causes permanent paralysis of the limbs.
Rudolph recovered but her left foot and leg were not moveable. She wore leg support until she was eight and was schooled at home because of her condition.
Although she suffered from a numerous illnesses as a child, she lived to outshine her problems. She dreamt big and she overcame her troubles to participate in the track and field Summer Olympic Games in 1960.
One interesting thing was that her father died when she was a baby so despite her struggles; she lived in poverty.
Her story is a good example of “From Dust To Glory”.
Silver Lining In The Dark Cloud
She was treated twice every week and her family gave her massage every day. She had to use braces for the first 7 years then she used special shoes for 2 years. It wasn’t an easy journey as I can imagine watching other children playing around while she just sat to watch them.
When she started walking, she tried to use her legs for good. That simple decision took her to glory.
It all began at High School where she was inspired by her elder sister who was in the basketball team.
Started to play in eighth grade and rose up the ranks due to gifted legs, that she got nicknamed “skeeter” by her coach for her ability to run fast. I gathered that Skeeter was a nick for mosquito.
One victory led to another and she tried out track events. Her talent was discovered by her high school coach who encouraged her to participate in the school’s track events.
Hat Trick Victory
Wilma participated in the Summer Olympic games which took place in Rome, Italy in 1960. She was only 20 years old at this time and was in her second year in the University when she qualified to compete in the 1960 Summer Olympics.
Wilma Rudolph participated in three track and field events during the 1960 Summer Olympics. She qualified to represent U.S.A. in three events which were 100, 200 sprints and 400-meter relay.
In each of the events, she had a gold medal.
Wilma Rudolph became the first woman to win a gold medal in the 100-meter event since the 1936 Olympic games. These feats made her one of the most recognized and popular athletes of the 1960 Olympic games. Wilma Rudolph was known all over the world for her exceptional success.
After Olympics She Became a Teacher and a Coach
Rudolph went back to being a student at Tennessee State University and earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education.
She took a job as a teacher at Cobb Elementary School where attended early in her life and also worked as a coach in the track events at Burt High School where was a student.
She participated in many Civil Rights Protests and also contributed to the community with her foundation which catered for athletes.
Wilma Rudolph won various awards like
James E. Sullivan Award
Babe Didrikson Zaharis Award
National Sports Award
Halls of fameThe Black Sports Hall of Fame
National Black Sports Hall of Fame
Entertainment Hall of Fame
United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame
National Women's Hall of Fame
United States Olympic Hall of Fame.
She was diagnosed with brain and throat cancer in July 1994 and she had a deteriorating health until she died on November 12, 1994.
She was a fighter till the last breath was taken.
Here is one of her quotes:
Winning is great, but if someone wants to succeed at something, they need to learn how to lose.
Rudolph explained that nobody wins all the time.
She is a good motivation not only to athletes but everyone trying to win at anything in life.
Many books and stories have been published about her. She even has docu-dramas and narratives made in her honour.
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