Black History Month Woman of the Day: Wilma Rudolph

Athletics is a department Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994) had no problem with. It was nothing short of a miracle that the the track and field champ, who was born prematurely and remained handicap until the age of twelve, achieved greatness.

After overcoming polio, pneumonia and scarlet fever as a child, Rudolph began her life in athletics. As the second youngest of 22 siblings, she had tons of role models to look up to. In high school she followed in her sisters footsteps and played basketball, until she was scouted by coach Ed Temple. From that moment on, with hard work and dedication, it was an up hill road. At 16, Wilma went to the Olympics for the first time and brought home a bronze medal.

She continued to go for the gold and in 1960 became the first American to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games. Wilma broke barriers as an African American woman and sprinted her way to the title of “fastest woman on earth.” Wilma received numerous awards including United Press Athlete of the Year 1960 and the James E. Sullivan Award. The runner was lucky enough to also visit President John F. Kennedy.

Although she retired from track at the early age of 22, her legacy has stood the test of time. In 1994 Rudolph passed away due to a brain tumor at the age of 54. Almost 20 years after her death, her story of persistence inspires many up and coming track stars of this generation.

Photo Credit: Granger