Black History Feature
Wilma Glodean Rudolph (June 23, 1940 – November 12, 1994) was an American athlete. Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games, in 1956 and in 1960.
Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely at 4.5 lbs., with 21 brothers and sisters, and caught infantile paralysis (caused by the polio virus) as a very young child. She recovered, but wore a brace on her left leg and foot which had become twisted as a result. By the time she was twelve years old, she had also survived scarlet fever, whooping cough, chickenpox, and measles. Her family drove her regularly from Clarksville, Tennessee to Nashville, Tennessee for treatments to straighten her twisted leg.
In 1952, 12-year-old Wilma Rudolph finally achieved her dream of shedding her handicap and becoming like other children. Wilma's older sister was on a basketball team, and Wilma vowed to follow in her footsteps. While in high school, 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 tenth grader for the first time, he knew he had found a natural athlete. Wilma had already gained some track experience on Burt High School's track team two years before, mostly as a way to keep busy between basketball seasons.
While she was attending Burt High School, Rudolph became a basketball star, setting state records for scoring and leading her team to the state championship. By the time she was 16, she earned a berth on the U.S. Olympic track and field team and came home from the 1956 Melbourne Games with an Olympic bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metres relay
In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games. A track and field champion, she elevated women's track to a major presence in the United States. She is also regarded as a civil rights and women's rights pioneer. Along with other 1960 Olympic athletes such as Cassius Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali, Rudolph became an international star due to the first international television coverage of the Olympics that year.