Wilma Rudolph was the first African-American sports star known for her sizzling victories sculptured at the Olympics. Her tiny legs set foot on the Earth on June 23, 1940 at Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee born to Blanche Rudolph and Ed Rudolph. She was the twentieth child of the twenty two children born to the Rudolph family. She has proved that a downfall which we consider as our curse is definitely a blessing in disguise
It was four years away from her birth when Wilma was paralyzed by polio. She also contracted scarlet fever and double pneumonia. Medical examiners who investigated her condition felt that she might never walk again.
At the age of twelve, her determination stormed in pulling her to get through physiotherapy sessions .She practiced walking hideously removing her braces without the knowledge of her parents and progressed rapidly to emerge into a gifted runner. Wilma says in her own words” By the time I was twelve, I was challenging every boy in our neighborhood at running, jumping, everything.”
Her journey of track skills began at Burt High School when she was roped into the basket ball team along with her sister. As years fell apart, she confronted a chance to take part in the track meet at the Tuskegee Institute where she lost in every single race.
Although Rudolph lost, her spurring passions held the eyes of Track coach Ed Temple of Tennessee State University. Eventually she was recruited into his summer track campus. There began her actual track journey, exactly a year later when she was sixteen her 1956 Olympic debut took place. Her first triumph was then recorded with a bronze medal on behalf of the American 4*100 meter relay team at Melbourne, Australia.
With the page of Wilma s age turned to seventeen, she conceived to only pause her sportsmanship for a couple of years. With the baby put up under the care of her sister, Rudolph fuelled herself into action to participate in the 1960 Olympic Games held at Rome. She won three gold medals consecutively becoming the first women to ever do so in 100m, 200m and was a member of the 400 m relay team.
Marching to town, she was conferred a welcome home celebration which was planned to be a segregated function exclusive of the blacks. This made Rudolph refuse to remodel it as an inclusive function which was the first of its kind in Clarksville. She became the role model for many and one such inspiration gave birth to a new female athlete, Florence Griffith Joyner, the next woman to win three gold medals in another Olympics event (1988).
Following her success Rudolph was crowned with various awards. She received the James E. Sullivan Award in 1961 and won a meet with President John F. Kennedy. In 1993, she was honored with the National Sports Award.
She also won the votes in 1973 at the National Black Sports and Entertainment Hall of Fame and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974. She was then inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame followed by the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994.
She devoted her life for her family after the 1960 Olympics and worked for the underprivileged students. Finally, death called on her on November 12, 1994 at the age of 54.
After her departure, Wilma Rudolph Boulevard bridge came into existence being named after her. This was followed by the release of postal stamps acknowledging her accomplishments. In memory of her, the Women’s Sports Foundation rewards every courageous female athlete with the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award.