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Track and Field & Olympics – Sprints – Wilma Rudolph – L E’s Stories Special – “Whether Called La Tornado, La Gazzella Nera, La Perle Noire or La Chattanooga Choo-Choo…..She Overcame Polio To Become An Olympic Sprint Legend – The Inspirational Life and Times of Wilma Rudolph

The doctors said I would never walk again, but my Mom said that I would, so, I believed my Mom” was Wilma Rudolph’s response when she was first diagnosed with polio at age 5 years old…..and because of her confidence in what her Mom said along with her shear determination to walk again…..even though she wore a leg brace until she was 12 years old.  Our family followed the Olympics for as long as I can remember…..and I distinctly remember watching USA Wilma Rudolf winning every female sprint event at the Rome  Olympics…..I have never forgotten the images of this radiating young women who ran like a gazelle with her body erect and her head held as far back as her neck would allow…..picturesque and elegant…..with beautiful long legs that reached for the sky…..so, the Italians named her La Gazzella Nera (The Black Gazelle)…..which was a great name as far as I was concerned ….for when Wilma Rudolp would come up in conversation…..and I’d say, oh you mean La Gazzella Nera in my best Italian accent.  Therefore, I am really looking forward to putting this post together…..cuz Wilma Rudolph has been the gold standard for women sprinters throughout my entire Sportsphile career…..while also being a driving force in changing the opinion of many Americans and folks all over the world about black people…..when in her lifetime, Wilma Rudolph was as responsible for cracking and eventually breaking down the “color barriers” that had been in place for such a long time…..and from there and for all time would accomplished these significant “generational changes” at the young age 20 years old by winning 3 gold medals in every sprint competition of the Rome Olympics…..then saying she would not attend a parade in her hometown unless it was integrated and not segregated.  What is remarkable about this lady was that she accomplished all of that through her strong faith in God, her inward determination and her undying belief in herself.  We hope you enjoy her incredible story…..as we begin her story with a documentary tribute film of Wilma Rudolph’s life as seen through the eyes of the residents of Clarksville, Tennessee, her hometown.




Olympics & Track and Field – 2021 -Tribute Special – “Clarksville, Tennessee Celebrates The Life Of Wilma Rudolph – A Living Memory”



Wilma Glodean Rudolph (June 23, 1940 – November 12, 1994) was an American sprinter…..who overcame childhood polio…..and went on to become a world-record-holding Olympic champion and international sports icon in track and field following her successes in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games…..as Rudolph competed in the 200-meter dash and won a bronze medal as a member of the women’s 4 × 100-meter relay team at the 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne, Australia…..then she went on to also win three gold medals, in the 100- and 200-meter individual events…..and the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy.  Rudolph was acclaimed the fastest woman in the world in the 1960’s…..and became the 1st American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games.                 



Olympics & Track & Field – Film Trailer – 1940 To 1994 – Official Trailer for the Made for Television Film “Wilma”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     


Due to the worldwide television coverage of the 1960 Summer Olympics, Rudolph became an international star along with other Olympic athletes such as Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali), Oscar Robertson, and Rafer Johnson who competed in Italy.                                                                             



Olympics – Documentary – 1960 – NBC’s Bob Costas Presents A Rome Summer Games Special – “1960 Olympics Retrospective (1996) – Featuring USA Sprinter Wilma Rudolph + USA Boxer Cassius Clay + USA Decathlete Rafer Johnson



As an Olympic champion in the early 1960’s, Rudolph was among the most highly visible black women in America and abroad…..when she became a role model for black and female athletes…..while her Olympic successes helped elevate women’s track and field in the United States…..while also being highly regarded civil rights and women’s rights pioneer.  In 1962 Rudolph retired from competition at the peak of her athletic career as the world record-holder in the 100- and 200-meter individual events and the 4 × 100-meter relays.  After competing in the 1960 Summer Olympics, the 1963 graduate of Tennessee State University became an educator and coach. Rudolph died of brain and throat cancer in 1994…..and her achievements are memorialized in a variety of tributes, including a U.S. postage stamp, documentary films and a made-for-television movie…..as well as in numerous publications, especially books for young readers.




 Olympics & Track & Field – Made for TV Movie – 1975 – Entire Movie “Wilma” – Starring Shirley Jo Finney + Cecily Tyson + Denzel Washington (1st Movie)



Rudolph was born prematurely to Blanche Rudolph at 4.5 pounds (2.0 kg) on June 23, 1940, in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee (now part of Clarksville).  She was the twentieth of 22 children from her father Ed Rudolph’s two marriages.  Shortly after Wilma’s birth, her family moved to Clarksville, Tennessee…..where she grew up and attended elementary and high school. Her father, Ed, who worked as a railway porter and did different odd jobs in and around Clarksville, died in 1961…..while her mother, Blanche, worked as a maid in Clarksville homes and died in 1994.




Olympics & Track + Field –  2010 – A Raymond A. House Production Special – “The Wilma Rudolph Story:  Child Walks Through Polio, Then Runs into Olympic History”



Rudolph had several early childhood illnesses, including pneumonia and scarlet fever…..plus she contracted infantile paralysis (caused by the poliovirus) at the age of five.  She recovered from polio but lost strength in her left leg and foot.  Physically disabled for much of her early life, Rudolph wore a leg brace until she was twelve years old.  Because there was little medical care available to African American residents of Clarksville in the 1940’s, Rudolph’s parents sought treatment for her at the historically black Meharry Medical College (now Nashville General Hospital at Meharry) in Nashville, Tennessee…..which was about 50 miles (80 km) from Clarksville.               



Olympics & Track + Field – Mini-Bio – 2013 – A Biography Special – “Wilma Rudolph: The First American Woman to Win 3 Gold Medals at a Single Olympics”



For two years, Rudolph and her mother made weekly bus trips to Nashville for treatments to regain the use of her weakened leg…..plus, she also received subsequent at-home massage treatments four times a day from members of her family…..while wearing an orthopedic shoe for support of her foot for another two years.  Because of the treatments she received at Meharry and the daily massages from her family members, Rudolph was able to overcome the debilitating effects of polio…..while learning to walk without a leg brace or orthopedic shoe for support by the time she was twelve years old.




Olympics Track + Field & News – 2020 – A WCNC News Special – “Breaking Barriers: Wilma Rudolph’s Olympic Journey”



Rudolph was initially homeschooled due to the frequent illnesses that caused her to miss kindergarten and 1st grade…..as she began attending 2nd grade at Cobb Elementary School in Clarksville in 1947, when she was seven years old.  Rudolph attended Clarksville’s all-black Burt High School…..where she excelled in basketball and track.  During her senior year of high school, Rudolph became pregnant with her 1st child, Yolanda, who was born in 1958, a few weeks before her enrollment at Tennessee State University in Nashville. In college, Rudolph continued to compete in track…..plus, she also became a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.  In 1963, Rudolph graduated from Tennessee State with a bachelor’s degree in education…..while her college education was paid for through her participation in a work-study scholarship program that required her to work on the TSU campus for two hours a day.




Olympics & Track + Field – 1940 To 1994 – A Mrs. Clark’s Book Reading Corner Special – “Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman Read Aloud” – As Kathleen Krull’s Detailed Story Beautifully Illustrated By David Diaz.



Rudolph was 1st introduced to organized sports at Burt High School…..which was in the center of Clarksville’s African American community.  After completing several years of medical treatments to regain the use of her left leg…..that’s when Wilma chose to follow in her sister Yvonne’s footsteps….. and began playing basketball in the 8th grade…..and continued to play basketball in high school…..where she became a starter on the team…..and began competing in track.  In her sophomore year, Rudolph scored 803 points…..while setting a new record for high school girls’ basketball.  Rudolph’s high school coach, C. C. Gray, gave her the nickname of “Skeeter” (for mosquito) because she moved so fast.




Olympics & Track + Field – Mini-Documentary – 2016 – A Same Passage Production Special – “Wilma Rudolph”



While playing for her high school basketball team, Rudolph was spotted by Ed Temple, Tennessee State’s track and field coach…..which was a major break for the active young athlete. The day that Temple saw the 10th grader for the 1st time, he knew she was a natural athlete.  Rudolph had already gained some track experience on Burt High School’s track team two years earlier, mostly as a way to keep busy between basketball seasons.  As a high school sophomore Rudolph competed at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute in her 1st major track event. Although she lost the race, Rudolph was determined to continue competing and win.




Olympics & Track + Field – 2022 – A Story Time Online With Hillborough Schools Special – “When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball” – Book Written By Mark Weakland



Temple invited fourteen-year-old Rudolph to join his summer training program at Tennessee State…..when after attending the track camp, Rudolph won all nine events she entered at an Amateur Athletic Union track meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Under Temple’s guidance she continued to train regularly at TSU…..while she was still a high school student.  Rudolph raced at amateur athletic events with TSU’s women’s track team, known as the Tigerbelles, for two more years before enrolling at TSU as a student in 1958.




Olympics & Track + Field – Awards – 2022 – Collegiate Athlete Hall of Fame Inductee Special – “Wilma Rudolph – Tennessee State University”



When Rudolph was sixteen and a junior in high school, she attended the 1956 U.S. Olympic track and field team trials in Seattle, Washington…..and qualified to compete in the 200-meter individual event at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia…..as the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team…..while being one of five TSU Tigerbelles to qualify for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.




Olympics – 1956 – Melbourne Summer Games Women’s 4 x 100m Finals – With USA 16 Yr Old Wilma Rudolph Running 3rd Leg For USA Team’s Bronze Medal Win



Rudolph was defeated in a preliminary heat of the 200-meter race at the Melbourne Olympic Games…..but ran the 3rd leg of the 4 × 100 m relay …..when the American team consisting of Rudolph, Isabelle Daniels, Mae Faggs, and Margaret Matthews, all of whom were TSU Tigerbelles, won the bronze medal…..while matching the world-record time of 44.9 seconds…..as the British team won the silver medal…..and the Australian team, with the 100- and 200-meter gold medalist Betty Cuthbert as their anchor leg, won the gold medal in a time of 44.5 seconds.  After Rudolph returned to her Tennessee home from the Melbourne Olympic Games, she showed her high school classmates the bronze medal that she had won and decided to try to win a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy.




Olympics – 1960 – Rome Summer Games Women’s 200m Sprint Finals Special – “Wilma Rudolph – Olympic Story”



In 1958 Rudolph enrolled at Tennessee State….. where Temple continued as her track coach…..when at the Pan American Games in Chicago, Illinois, in 1959,  Rudolph won a silver medal in the 100-meter individual event…..as well as a gold medal in the 4 × 100-meter relay with teammates Isabelle Dan, Barbara Joe, and Lucinda Williams.  She also won the AAU 200-meter title in 1959…..and defended her title for four consecutive years. During her career, Rudolph also won three AAU indoor titles. 

Olympics & Track + Field – 2020 – A Classic English Unit Program – Class 6 Unit 3 Special – “Wilma Rudolph: Questions and Answers”



While she was still a sophomore at Tennessee State, Rudolph competed in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas…..where she set a world record in the 200-meter dash that stood for eight years.  She also qualified for the 1960 Summer Olympics in the 100-meter dash.                                                                                                        



Olympics & Track + Field – Biography – 2022 – An Erica Flores Production Special – “Wilma Rudolph: Against All Odds” – Book by Stephanie E. Macceca



At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, Rudolph competed in three events on a cinder track in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico: the 100- and 200-meter sprints…..as well as the 4 × 100-meter relay…..and when Wilma Rudolph won a gold medal in each of these events…..while becoming the 1st American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympiad.                                              



Olympics – 1960 – Rome Summer Games Women’s Sprints Special – “Epic Olympic Moments: Wilma Rudolph at Rome Games”



Rudolph ran the finals in the 100-meter dash in a wind-aided time of 11.0 seconds…..but the record-setting time was not credited as a world record, because the wind, at 2.75 metres (3.01 yd) per second…..which exceeded the maximum of 2 metres (2.2 yd).)…..as she became the 1st American woman to win a gold medal in the 100-meter race since Helen Stephens’s win in the 1936 Summer Olympics.  Rudolph won another gold medal in the finals of the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.0 seconds, after setting a new Olympic record of 23.2 seconds in the opening heat.  After these wins she was hailed throughout the world as “the fastest woman in history.”




Olympics – 1960 – Rome Summer Games Women’s Sprints Special – “Wilma Rudolph’s Incredible Career And Olympic Records”



On September 7, 1960, the temperature climbed toward 110 °F (43 °C) as thousands of spectators jammed the stadium…..as Rudolph combined efforts with her Olympic teammates from Tennessee State—Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams, and Barbara Jones—to win the 4 × 100-meter relays with a time of 44.5 seconds…..after setting a world record of 44.4 seconds in the semifinals. Rudolph ran the anchor leg for the American team in the finals…..and nearly dropped the baton after a pass from Williams…..but she overtook Germany’s anchor leg to win the relay in a close finish.  Rudolph had a special, personal reason to hope for victory…..which was to pay tribute to Jesse Owens, the celebrated American athlete and star of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany…..who had been her inspiration.




Olympics & Track + Field – Interview – 2013 – A Mercedes Dickerson Presentation Special – “Wilma Rudolph Interview (1968)”                                                                                                                                                


Rudolph was one of the most popular athletes of the 1960 Rome Olympics and emerged from the Olympic Games as “The Tornado, the fastest woman on earth.”  The Italians nicknamed her “La Gazzella Nera” (“The Black Gazelle”).  The French called her “La Perle Noire” (“The Black Pearl”), as well as “La Chattanooga Choo-Choo”.  Along with other 1960 Olympic athletes such as Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali), Oscar Robertson, and Rafer Johnson, Rudolph became an international star due to the 1st worldwide television coverage of the Olympic Games that year.  The 1960 Rome Olympics launched Rudolph into the public spotlight…..when the media cast her as America’s athletic “leading lady” and a “queen,”…..with praises of her athletic accomplishments…..as well as her feminine beauty and poise. 

Olympics & Game Shows – 1960 – Live on To Tell The Truth With Bud Collins – Special Guest USA Triple Gold Winner Wilma Rudolph


Rudolph returned home to Clarksville after completing a post-games European tour…..where she and her Olympic teammates competed in meets in London, West Germany, the Netherlands and at other venues in Europe. Rudolph’s hometown of Clarksville celebrated “Welcome Wilma Day” on October 4, 1960, with a full day of festivities.  Because Rudolph adamantly insisted, her homecoming parade and banquet became the 1st fully integrated municipal event in the city’s history.  An estimated 1,100 attended the banquet in her honor and thousands lined the city streets to watch the parade.                                                                                                                                                                 



Olympics – 2021 – NBC Top 100 Olympic Moments Special – “Olympic Moment # 12 Wilma Rudolph”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Rudolph’s gold-medal victories in Rome also “propelled her to become one of the most highly visible black women across the United States and around the world.”  Her Olympic star status also “gave an enormous boost to the indoor track circuit in the months following the Olympic Games in Rome.”  In 1961 Rudolph competed in the prestigious, Los Angeles Invitational indoor track meet, where thousands turned out to watch her run…..and she was invited to compete in New York Athletic Club track events…..then became the 1st woman invited to compete at the Millrose Games…..plus, she was also invited to compete at the Penn Relays and the Drake Relays, among others.                           



Olympics – Documentary – 2013 – A Goodpasture Channel Production Special – “Wilma Rudolph:  The Woman Who Ran Around the World”                                                                                                                                      


Following her Olympic victories, the United States Information Agency made a ten-minute documentary film, Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Champion (1961), to highlight her accomplishments on the track.  Rudolph’s appearance in 1960 on To Tell the Truth, an American television game show…..and later as a guest on The Ed Sullivan Show…..also helped promote her status as an iconic sports star.




Olympics & Game Show – 1970 – TV Show What’s My Line With Wally Bruner – With Special Guest USA Triple Gold Medal Winner Wilma Rudolph



In 1961 Rudolph married William Ward, a North Carolina College at Durham track team member…..but they divorced in 1963.  In the interim, Rudolph retired from track competition at the age of twenty-two, following victories in the 100-meter and 4 x 100-meter-relay races at the U.S.–Soviet meet at Stanford University in 1962.   At the time of her retirement, Rudolph was still the world record-holder in the 100-meter (11.2 seconds set on July 19, 1961), 200-meter (22.9 seconds set on July 9, 1960), and 4 x 100-meter-relay events. She had also won seven national AAU sprint titles…..and set the women’s indoor track record of 6.9 seconds in the 60-yard dash. As Rudolph explained it, she retired at the peak of her athletic career because she wanted to leave the sport while still at her best. As such, she did not compete at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, saying, “If I won two gold medals, there would be something lacking. I’ll stick with the glory I’ve already won like Jesse Owens did in 1936.”




Track & Field – 1962 – Highlights of the USA Vs USSR Track Meet – Featuring USA Wilma Rudolf and USA Bob Hayes In The 100m Dash Competition



After retiring from competition, Rudolph continued her education at Tennessee State and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1963.  That year she also made a month-long trip to West Africa as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S State Department…..plus served as U.S. representative to the 1963 Friendship Games in Dakar, Senegal…..while visiting Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Upper Volta…..where she attended sporting events, visited schools and made guest appearances on television and radio broadcasts.  She also attended the premiere of the U.S. Information Agency’s documentary film that highlighted her track career.




Olympics & Track + Field – Motivational Video – 2016 – A Sujith Pushpan Production Special – “DETERMINATION: Wilma Rudolph”



In May 1963, a few weeks after returning from Africa, Rudolph participated in a civil rights protest in her hometown of Clarksville to desegregate one of the city’s restaurants.  Within a short time, the mayor announced that the city’s public facilities, including its restaurants, would become fully integrated.  Rudolph also married Robert Eldridge, who had fathered her child when she was in high school, later that year. The couple had three additional children, but divorced after seventeen years of marriage.




Olympics & Track + Field – 2021 – A Seed of Melanin Kids! Production Special – “Wilma Rudolph: History for Kids”



Rudolph did not earn significant money as an amateur athlete…..so she  shifted to a career in teaching and coaching after her retirement from track competition.  She began as a 2nd-grade teacher at Cobb Elementary School, where she had attended as a child….. and coached track at Burt High School, where she had once been a student-athlete herself…..but conflict forced her to leave the position…..when she moved several times over the years…..and lived in various places such as Chicago, Indianapolis, Saint Louis, Detroit, along with stints in Tennessee; California; and Maine.




Olympics & Track + Field – Mini-Documentary – 2021 – A Black History Live On Stage Special – “Wilma Rudolph”



Rudolph’s autobiography, Wilma: The Story of Wilma Rudolph, was published in 1977…..which served as the basis for several other publications and films.  By 2014 at least twenty-one books on Rudolph’s life had been published for children from pre-school youth to high school students.




Olympics & Track + Field – Audio Book – 2020 – A Books for Kids Read by Flying Dragons Special – “Little People Big Dreams by Wilma Rudolph”



In addition to teaching, Rudolph worked for nonprofit organizations and government-sponsored projects that supported athletic development among American children.  In Boston, Massachusetts, she became involved in the federal Job Corps program…..and in 1967 served as a track specialist for Operation Champion.  In 1981 Rudolph established and led the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana, that trains youth athletes.  In 1987 Rudolph joined DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, as director of its women’s track program and served as a consultant on minority affairs to the university’s president.  She went on to host a local television show in Indianapolis…..and was also a publicist for Universal Studios…..as well as a television sports commentator for ABC Sports during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California…..and then lit the cauldron to open the Pan American Games in Indianapolis in 1987 in front of 80,000 spectators at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  In 1992, two years before her untimely death, Rudolph became a vice president at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital.




Olympics – 1984 – Los Angeles Olympic Games Women’s Track 100m Finals – USA Evelyn Ashford Wins Gold – With Wilma Rudolph Behind the Mic for ABC Sports



Rudolph dated boxing legend Muhammad Ali during the early 1960’s.  She was married twice, with both marriages ending in divorce.  On October 14, 1961, she married William “Willie” Ward, a member of the North Carolina College at Durham track team. They divorced in May 1963. After her graduation from Tennessee State in 1963 Rudolph married Robert Eldridge, her high school sweetheart, with whom she already had a daughter, Yolanda, born in 1958.  Rudolph and Eldridge had four children: two daughters (Yolanda, born in 1958, and Djuanna, born in 1964) and two sons (Robert Jr., born in 1965, and Xurry, born in 1971).  The seventeen-year marriage ended in divorce.




Olympics & Track + Field – 2017 – A History 191 Production Special – “Tribute To Wilma Rudolph”



In July 1994 (shortly after her mother’s death), Rudolph was diagnosed with brain cancer…..plus she also had been diagnosed with throat cancer…..when her condition deteriorated rapidly….. and she died on November 12, 1994, at the age of fifty-four, at her home in Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee.                                                                                                                         



Olympics & Track + Field – Mini-Documentary – 1940 To 1994 – A National History Day Production Special – “Wilma Rudolph: From Polio Tragedy to Triumphing As an Olympic Champion”



Rudolph’s legacy lies in her efforts to overcome obstacles that included childhood illnesses and a physical disability to become the fastest woman runner in the world in 1960.  At the 1960 Rome Olympics, she became the 1st American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympiad. Rudolph was one of the 1st role models for black and female athletes.  Her Olympic success “gave a tremendous boost to women’s track in the United States.” Rudolph’s celebrity also caused gender barriers to be broken at previously all-male track and field events such as the Millrose Games.




Olympics * Track + Field – Illustrated Reading Book – 2012 – A Kadir Khan Production Special – “The Story of Wilma Rudolph”



In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Rudolph is remembered for her contributions to youth, including founding and heading the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, which trains youth athletes.  Her life is remembered in numerous publications, especially books for young readers. Rudolph’s life has been featured in documentary films and made-for-television movies such as the Walter de Hoog directed Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Champion (1961)…..which was the  ten-minute film documentary of her accomplishments on the track…..plus in 1977, Bud Greenspan produced  Wilma (also known as The Story of Wilma Rudolph), a made-for-television docudrama adaptation of her autobiography starring Shirley Jo Finney as Rudolph and costarring Cicely Tyson, Jason Bernard, and Denzel Washington in one of his first roles…..and in 2015, Positive Edge Education Ltd. commissioned Pixel Revolution Films, a United Kingdom-based film company, to produce three short inspiration dramas to be screened in schools, including one about Rudolph’s life titled Unlimited  (2015)…..which was written and directed by Ian and Dominic Higgins.  Rudolph was named United Press International Athlete of the Year (1960) and Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year (1960 and 1961)…..plus she was also the recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award (1960) for the top amateur athlete in the United States…..as well as the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award (1962).  In addition, Rudolph had a private meeting with President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office…..and was also honored with the National Sports Award (1993).   Rudolph was inducted into several women’s and sports halls of fame…..which included Black Sports Hall of Fame in 1973…..the U.S. National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974…..the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983…..the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994…..and the National Black Sports and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2001.  In 1984, the Women’s Sports Foundation selected Rudolph as one of the five greatest women athletes in the United States.  In 1996, the foundation presented its 1st Wilma Rudolph Courage Award to Jackie Joyner-Kersee.  In 1994, a portion of U.S. Route 79 was named Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, extending from Interstate 24, exit 4, in Clarksville to the Red River (Lynnwood-Tarpley) bridge near the Kraft Street intersection.  On November 21, 1995, the Wilma Rudolph Memorial Commission placed a black marble  marker at her grave site in Edgefield Missionary Baptist Church.  In April 1996, a life-size bronze statue of Rudolph was erected “at the southern end of the Cumberland River Walk at the base of the Pedestrian Overpass” at College Street and Riverside Drive in Clarksville.  In 2012, the city of Clarksville, TN built the Wilma Rudolph Event Center, located at Liberty Park on Cumberland Drive. The life-size bronze statue was moved there from its previous location at Riverside Drive and stands there now near the entrance of the building.  On December 2, 1980, Tennessee State University named its indoor track in Rudolph’s honor.  On August 11, 1995 (nine months after Rudolph’s death), Tennessee State University dedicated a new, six-story dormitory as the Wilma G. Rudolph Residence Center. The building houses upper class and graduate women…..as it provides Wi-Fi access and includes a computer lab, beauty salon, and cafeteria.  In 1997, Governor Don Sundquist  proclaimed that June 23 be known as “Wilma Rudolph Day” in Tennessee. The December 29, 1999, issue of Sports Illustrated ranked Rudolph first on its list of the top fifty greatest sports figures of the twentieth-century from Tennessee.  ESPN ranked Rudolph 41st in its listing of the twentieth century’s greatest athletes.  Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Berlin in 1994, Berlin American High School (BAHS) was turned over to the people of Berlin and became the “Gesamtschule Am Hegewinkel”. The school was renamed the “Wilma Rudolph Oberschule” in her honor in summer 2000.  On July 14, 2004, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 23-cent postage stamp, the fifth in its Distinguished Americans series, in recognition of her accomplishments.                                                                                                                   



 Olympics & Track + Field – 1940 To 1994 – ESPN Classics “30 for 30” – A Sarah Nowaki Production Special – “Wilma Rudolph”                                                                                                                                                          


As you scour through the videos posted about the life and times of Wilma Rudolph, you will find a simple recurring story of how a young girl’s faith in God and her large loving family…..along with her individual God given talents of determination, dreams, perseverance and pride would lead her from metal braces on her legs at age 12 to becoming known as The Fastest Woman in the World a mere 8 years later.  This story has many important lessons within it. It tells about a poverty stricken sickly child who overcomes many obstacles, including polio to achieve an unimaginable level of success.  As Wilma tells you her story in these videos herewith….that is when you will find, as I did, that her race paralleled her life…with a stutter start…..but a strong accelerating finish…..plus Wilma was perhaps the most graceful runner I’ve been blessed to see run.  Can you imagine if she had the training they do now…..while running on the track surfaces of today instead of a cinder track like she did in the Rome Olympics…..when she set 3 Olympic and World Records  My favorite quote from this incredible athlete and woman is “Never underestimate the power of dreams, and the influence of the human spirit.  We are all in this notion:  The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”  Like myself, most folks don’t find out what their true God given talents are until later in life…..which is during and after our middle-aged years…..as it takes some time for our “life’s stew” to acquire enough ingredients to actually accomplish what we were put on this Earth to do…..but in Wilma Rudolph’s case, she was provided the path that God had intended for her to follow by the time she broke athletic barriers at the Olympics…..which she followed by breaking barriers in her home town by insisting that her Hometown Victory Parade would become the 1st segregated event to ever take place in Clarksville Tennessee…..and like all things Wilma Rudolph…..she did this with a humble quiet beauty and elegance…..cuz the fact remains that this seemingly simple story was anything but simple…..and the lessons she taught us all will hold great value as long as mankind is on this Earth.


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