We bring to you an unbelievable story of Wilma Rudolph, an Olympic gold medalist, athlete and a woman par excellence. Her story begins with premature birth, a plethora of illnesses and diseases in her childhood, and the pain of a disabled left leg. She was once told by the Doctors that she would never be able to walk again, but destiny had something else in store, or more so the unrelenting faith of her mother that her daughter will stand, walk and run like other children compelled the gods to re-write Wilma's fate.
Wilma Glodean Rudolph, born on June 23, 1940, in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee. She was the 20th of the 22nd child in her family. Wilma suffered from pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio while growing. She recovered from the first two, but polio lingered. Wilma's and her mother would make a 100-mile round trip pilgrimage to rehabilitate her leg, which was left disabled due to polio. She was helped and cared for by her entire family. Everyone took turns to provide Wilma with at-home massages which were to be done four times a day. With the constant and consistent efforts of her family and strong will of Wilma herself, the impossible was made possible: Wilma started walking.
She was 8-year-old when she took her first steps with the help of leg brace. In four years, Wilma didn't need leg support or the leg brace to walk. She was now playing for her school basketball team. It took her three more years to fully recover from the incapacitating effects of polio. If this was not magical enough, the girl who once was told she would never walk was spotted by Tennessee State University's track coach, Ed Temple, who took her under his wings and a shinning running star was born.
After one year of intensive training, Wilma qualified the U.S. Olympic track and field team trials and, eventually, the Olympics themselves. In 1960 history was created when Wilma Rudolf became the first woman to ever win three gold medals in single Olympic. She won gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. She set a world record in the 4x100m relay and an Olympic record at the 200m.
In no time, Wilma became a household name and a role model for athletes around the world. When asked how did she achieve such heights in spite of all the odds, Wilma said, "I believed my mother's words that I can run."
Wilma died a few days after her mother's death. However, the mother-daughter duo is still remembered for their combined grit, and determination and for achieving the unthinkable. They gave the world its fastest runner and an inspiring story of "nothing is impossible".
The legacy of Wilma Rudolph as a pioneer, a game-changer, and a believer lives on.
Featured image: Black Women Who Know Their Worth
By Prakriti S