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Olympian was product of an HBCU

By Aiyana Alexander
On March 21, 2019

Wilma Rudolph won a bronze medal in the 1956 Olympics, and in the 1960 games, she won three golds. She attended Tennessee State University. theolympians.co

The child who doctors said would never be able to walk became an Olympic track star and world-record-holding sprinter.
Wilma Gloden Rudolph born June 23, 1940, in Clarksville, Tennessee. She was her parents 20th child.
Rudolph faced many physical challenges. She was born prematurely and weighed 4.5 pounds at birth. She also dealt with infantile paralysis caused by the polio virus.
Rudolph was told that she was never going to be able to walk. It was difficult to find a hospital to treat a African American child with polio.
Rudolph’s mother would travel 50 miles twice a week for heat and water therapy. After two years of doing this Rudolph was able to walk with a steel brace on her left leg.
After five years of prescribed routine massage therapy Rudolph was able to walk without her steel brace. By age 12, she was able to shed all her handicaps and walk like everyone else.
Despite dealing with disabilities, Rudolph didn’t let anything stop her.
Before falling in love with track, Rudolph was an amazing basketball player. She scored 803 points in 25 games, a new state record in girls’ basketball, and led her team to the state championship. She even set the state record of 49 points in one game.
Rudolph’s big break came when she was discovered by Tennessee State University. There she joined the track and field summer program.
At the age of 16 Rudolph earned a place on the U.S Olympic track and field team for the 1956 Summer Olympic in Melbourne Australia. She won the Olympic bronze medal in the 4x100 meter relay.
This all happened five years from the day she had first walked.
In 1960 at the Rome Olympics, Rudolph won the 100 meter final in 11.0 seconds, breaking the world record by 0.3 seconds. She then won the 200 meter in 23.2 seconds, a new Olympic record.
Finally she combined with Tennessee state teammates Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams and Barbra Jones to win the 400 meters relay in 44.5 seconds, setting a world record.
Rudolph was known throughout the world for her astonishing speed and was hailed throughout the world as “the fastest woman in history.”
In 1962 at age 22, Rudolph retired from track competition. She completed her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Tennessee State and, worked as a teacher, a track coach and a sports commentator on nation television.
In 1963 Rudolph married her high school sweetheart Robert Eldridge. They had four children but decided to part ways after 17 years of marriage.
In 1994 Rudolph was diagnosed with brain cancer. She lost her battle and died on Nov. 12, 1994.  
Wilma Rudolph will be forever known as one of the fastest women in track and her legacy is still living on.

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