Thursday, March 10, 2011
Celebrating Women's History Month
Wilma Glodean Rudolph ( 1940 – 1994 ) Athlete, Olympic track and field champion. Born on June 23, 1940, in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee. Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field events at the Olympics.
Interesting Facts: When Wilma Rudolph was four years old, she had a disease called polio, which causes people to be crippled and unable to walk. To make matters worse, her family was poor and could not afford good medical care. She was from a large family. She was the 20th child of 22 children. Her father was a railroad porter and her mother was a maid.
The doctors had said she would not be able to walk. Her mother took her every week on a long bus trip to a hospital to receive therapy. It didn't help, but the mother was told that Wilma legs should be massaged everyday. The brothers and sisters were taught how to do it, and they also rubbed her legs four times a day.
At the age of 8, she could walk with a leg brace and eventually she used a high-topped shoe to support her foot. Despite this, Wilma played basketball with her brothers everyday. Three years later, her mother came home to find Wilma playing basketball by herself bare-footed.
A track coach encouraged her to start running. In her senior year of high school, she qualified for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. At the age of 16, she was the youngest member of the U.S. team and won a bronze medal in the sprint relay event ( women's 400-meter relay).
1960 Olympics held in Rome, she won the 100 meter, 200 meter, and sprint relay events, setting a world's record in the 200-meter race. Despite a sprained ankle, she helped her team to win another gold medal for the 400-meter relay!
After retiring from competition in the early 1960s, Rudolph worked as a teacher and a track coach. In the 1980s, she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and established the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to promote amateur athletics. Rudolph died on November 12, 1994, near Nashville, Tennessee, from brain cancer. In 2004, the United States Postal Service honored this Olympic champion by featuring her likeness on a 23-cent stamp. She is remembered as one of the fastest women in track and a great inspiration to athletes everywhere.