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Women’s History Month- Wilma Rudolph

…Against All Odds

Wilma Rudolph was a winner in every sense of the word!   She overcame many hardships, difficulties, disabilities, and trials to become a national hero in perseverance!

Wilma was born in 1940 in Clarksville, Tennessee.  Wilma was the 20th child out of 22 children born to a very poor family during the depression era years.  Due to her premature birth, she experienced many illnesses…measles, mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever, and pneumonia.   Then the unthinkable became reality.  Doctors told her mother that Wilma had crippling polio and would never walk.

Wilma’s mother refused to give in to the diagnosis and took Wilma to Fisk University, a black medical college– twice a week for two years–50 miles away.   At the age of twelve, Wilma could walk without the aid of the leg brace, crutches, or even corrective shoes.

It was at this time that Wilma decided to become an athlete.  Her life story is one of winning against all odds! Basketball was the first sport in which Wilma excelled.  She then went on to become a track star, competing in her first Olympic Game in 1956 at the age of 16.   It was in this race she won a bronze medal.

In Rome on September 7th, 1960, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the Olympics.   Her success in the 200, 300, and 400-meter dash broke down gender barriers in what was previously an all-male track and field event. Today, she is still considered the most celebrated female athletes of all times!

Sadly, Wilma died in 1994 at the age of 54 from brain cancer.

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Judy W Bell

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