Wilma Glodean Rudolph (June 23, 1940 - November 12, 1994) was an American athlete whowas considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games: in 1956 and1960. In 1960 Summer Olympic in Rome she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games. The powerful sprinter emerged from the 1960 Rome Games as "The Tornado", the fastest woman on earth. The Italians nicknamed her "La Gazzella Negra" (the Black Gazelle) where she was "La Perle Noire" (the Black Pearl) for the French. Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely at 4,5 lbs., with 21 brothers and sisters, and caught infantile paralysis, caused by the polio virus, as a very young child. She recovered, but wore a brace on her left leg and foot which had become twisted as a result. By the time she was 12, she had also survived scarlet fever, whooping cough, chickenpox and measles. Her family drove her regularly from Clarksville, Tennessee to Nashville, Tennesse for treatments to straighten her twisted leg.
In 1952, the 12 years old Wilma Rudolph finally achieved her dream of shedding her handicap and becoming like other children. Wilma's older sister was on a basketball team, and Wilma vowed to follow in her footsteps. While in high school, Wilma was on the basketball team when she was spotted by Tennessee State track and field coach: Edward S. Temple. Being discovered by Temple, was a major break for a young athlete. The day he saw the tenth grader for the first time, he knew he had found a natural athlete. Rudolph had already gained some track experience on Burt High School's track team two years before, mostly as a was to keep busy between basketball seasons. She became there a basketball star, setting state records for scoring and leading her team to the state championship. By the time she was only 16. She earned a berth on the US Olympic track and field team and came home from the 1956 Melbourne Games with an Olympic Bronze Medal in the 4x100m Relay.
At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome she won three Olympic titles: the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay. Under 80 000 spectators in the "Stadio Olimpico", Rudolph ran the 100m dash in an impressive 11seconds flat. However the time was not credited as a World Record, because it was wind-aided. She also won the 200m dash in 23.2s, a new Olympic record. After these twin triumphs, she was being hailed throughout the world as "the fastest woman in history". Finally, on September 11, 1960, she combined with Tennessee State teammates Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams and Barbara Jones to win the 4x100m relay in 44.5s, setting a World Record. Rudolph had a special, personal reason to hope for victory, to pay tribute to Jesse Owens, the celebrated American athlete who had been her inspiration, also the star of the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin - Germany. Rudolph sprinted in the Drake Relays in Des Moines, IA and won first place.
Rudolph retired from track competition in 1962 at age 22 after winning two races at a US–Soviet meet. After her athletic career, Rudolph worked as a teacher at Cobb Elementary School, coaching track at Burt High School, and became a sports commentator on national television. In July 1994, shortly after her mother’s death, Wilma Rudolph was diagnosed with brain and throat cancer. On November 12, 1994, at age 54, she died of cancer in her home in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time of her death, she had four children, eight grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
-I don't know why I run so fast. I just run.-I loved the feeling of freedom in running, the fresh air, the feeling that the only person I'm competing with is me.
-I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.
-Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.
-The triumph can't be had without the struggle. -Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.