Birthday Week of an American Icon

Earlier this week it would have been the 76th Birthday of the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics, Wilma Rudolph. She was, and still is a model for athletes today.


She was called the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s, however, her story doesn’t start there.

Wilma Rudolph was a child who overcame her disabilities through physical therapy and determination predicated by hard work. This was done by defying the odds and becoming a very gifted runner. It was only through her tenacity did she become honored as the fastest woman in the 60’s.


Being born the 20th out of 22 children, Wilma was born prematurely. Before she was a huge asset to the civl rights community, being she was the first women to win the gold medal three times in one Olympic Games. However, her claim to victory was not an easy one for her as she had double pneumonia, scarlet fever and Polio as a child.


Because of the polio, she needed support. Because of this, she was to wear a brace. This is one of the many reasons why she shows an amazing example of determination. It was with the help of physical therapy that she was able to overcome her disabilities.

This was also in part that she played basketball with her brothers nearly every day. One day her mother came home to find her playing basketball by herself, only this time bare-footed! She didn’t even have to use the special brace.

A track coach encouraged her to start running. She ran so well that during her senior year in high school, she qualified for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. She won a bronze medal in the women’s 400m relay.


In 1959, she qualified for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome running the 100m dash, 200m dash, and 4x1m relay.


Then she sprained her ankle, but she ignored the pain and helped her team to win another gold medal for the 4x1m relay! She also claimed the gold in the 100m, 200m, breaking three world records in the process. She was dubbed “The Black Gazelle” by the European press for her speed, beauty and grace.


In the picture above you see the three gold medals she won at the Rome Olympics.

She died of brain cancer in 1994. Even though she is no longer alive, her influence still lives on in the lives of many young people who look up to her.

The NCAA Hall of Champions has her on there wall of women in history of sports. She was also inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983, honored with the National Sports Award in 1993, and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994.

Wilma thought God had a greater purpose for her than to win three gold medals.


Published by: I Play Track

Answering the fundamental question of "What Sport Do You Play?" by bringing to you the best of Track History and many of it's influential "Players." Follow on instagram: IPlayTrackOfficial Follow on Twitter: JustRunFuller

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