“My doctor told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.” –Wilma Rudolph She did walk again. And then she ran. She ran through American history like a streak of light.
The story of Wilma Rudolph is one of incredible perseverance. It’s a story about belief and ambition and overcoming long odds. The person known as “the fastest woman in the world” found herself up against poor health, rampant racism, sexism, and a host of other issues, yet she went on to become one of the greatest athletes of all time anyway.
Wilma Rudolph simply wouldn’t be denied. After battling polio and scarlet fever in her childhood, Wilma didn’t learn to walk until she was six years old, and wore a leg brace until the age of 12. Yet by the time she was 16 years old she was winning a bronze medal at the 1956 Summer Olympic games. By the time she was 20, she had rewritten the record books, winning three gold medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. The nicknames tried to keep up with her.
“The Black Tornado.” “The Flash.” “The Black Gazelle.” What she really was? A force of nature. And a pillar of the civil rights movement. Wilma refused to attend her own homecoming back in the U.S. if it was not integrated. She was a hero, a champion, and an inspiration.
“Sometimes it takes years to really grasp what has happened to your life,” she once said.
And it takes a lifetime to celebrate a life lived so extraordinarily. We can all hope to cross the finish line one day with as much vitality.
Officially licensed by Wilma Rudolph.
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