Wilma Rudolph
June 23, 1940 - November 12, 1994

Wilma was the 20th child to be born to to Ed and Blanche Rudolph in Bethlehem, Tennessee. Wilma was a small, premature baby who could hardly move her left leg. She was diagnosed with polio at birth and suffered bouts with pneumonia and scarlet fever during the first years of her life. Wilma's mother took her tp therapy for her leg every week for two years and her many sisters and brothers helped her by massaging her legs.

Wilma's family was very happy when Wilma took off her braces at the age of nine and began to walk. Soon Wilma was running and playing basketball. Wilma was an excellent basketball player; she set the state record for the most points scored in a high school game. Ed Temple, a track coach from Tennessee State University saw Wilma play basketball and asked her to run for his team. Wilma ran at Tennessee during the summer when she was in high school and she received a scholarship to attend Tennessee State. When Wilma was 16 she competed in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and her team won the bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay.

Use the Icon if you would like the paragraphs above read to you. Flash Audio

Wilma trained hard and returned to the Olympics in Rome, Italy, four years later. Wilma's hard work paid off. She became the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. Wilma was so fast that people at the Olympics said, "If you blink, you will miss her." After the Olympics Wilma became an international star and traveled to many countries. Clarksville, Tennessee held a victory parade to celebrate their fast-running hometown girl.

In 1963, Wilma married her high school sweetheart, Robert Eldridge, with whom she had four children. Robert and Wilma divorced years later. Wilma remained an active advocate for women in sports until her death in 1994. She is remembered as one of the most celebrated female athletes of all times.

Use the Icon if you would like the paragraphs above read to you. Flash Audio

Additional Web Resources: