Track legend Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994) has one of sports’ most incredible life stories. Born prematurely at under five pounds, she spent most of her childhood dealing with various ailments—pneumonia, scarlet fever, and then polio, which restricted the use of her left leg.
Many doctors wondered if Wilma would ever be able to walk normally. She hobbled around on leg braces as a child. She could not join the other kids in their activities, and was also home schooled, since her local school required that students be able to walk in order to attend.
Wilma grew up in a large family that was low on money, but high on morale and support. They all helped her with her numerous treatments, but none of them seemed to work. However, Wilma remained determined to escape her condition. At age nine, she finally took off her leg braces and began walking.
She continued to improve, and by age 11, she set a basketball hoop in her yard and grew very passionate about the game. She later became a high school basketball star and track standout. Wilma’s incredible speed soon took her to the top of the sports world, and in the 1960 Olympics, she won three gold medals in track (the 100 meter race, 200 meter race, and 4 X 100 meter relay).
Wilma, who was African American, also helped promote racial harmony in America and the world, and was a role model for other African Americans.
Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit… The potential for greatness lives within each of us.
I believe in me more than anything in this world.
Wilma Rudolph Biography