Wilma Rudolph

CSRidentity.com believes that Wilma is a great inspiration for the world.

The African American athlete Wilma Rudolph made history in the 1960 Summer Olympic games in Rome, Italy, when she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the track and field competition.

At the age of four, Wilma was severely weakened when she contracted polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often causes developmental problems in children. She survived the illness, but she lost the use of her left leg. Specialists in Nashville recommended routine massage therapy for the limb. After five years of treatment, Wilma one day stunned her doctors when she removed her leg braces and walked by herself.

The Olympic Games were a far-off dream to a young African American woman in Tennessee. She was a teenager before she even learned what the Olympics were. Rudolph caught on fast, though. In four seasons of high school track meets, she never lost a race. At the tender age of sixteen, she qualified for the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and came home with a bronze medal. Rudolph entered Tennessee State University in the fall of 1957, with the intention of majoring in elementary education. All of her spare time was consumed by running, however. The pace took its toll, and she found herself too ill to run through most of the 1958 season.

By 1960 Rudolph was ready to go to Rome, Italy.

At the 1960 Olympics, Rudolph won all three of her gold medals in very dramatic fashion. In both the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, she finished at least three yards in front of her closest competitor. She tied the world record in the 100-meter and set a new Olympic record in the 200. Rudolph also brought her 400-meter relay team from behind to win the gold. The French called her "La Gazelle." Without question, Rudolph's achievements at the 1960 Olympic Games remain a stand-out performance in the history of Olympic competition.

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