WILMA RUDOLPH Biography - Famous Sports men and women


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Name: Wilma Rudolph                                                                         
Born: 23 June 1940                                                                         
Wilma Glodean Rudolph (June 23, 1940 - November 12, 1994) was an American                   
athlete, and in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, she became the first               
American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single                 
Olympic Games, despite running on a sprained ankle.                                         
The powerful sprinter emerged from the 1960 Rome Olympics as "The Tennessee                 
Tornado," the fastest woman on earth. The Italians nicknamed her "La Gazzella               
Nera" (the Black Gazelle); to the French she was "La Perle Noire" (The Black               
Wilma Rudolph was born in St. Bethlehem, a part of Clarksville, Tennessee,                 
twentieth of twenty-two children of Ed and Blanche Rudolph. At an early age it             
was discovered that she had polio. In 1947 her mother took her to Nashville's               
Meharry Medical College, a hospital for blacks 50 miles from their home, twice a           
week. Because of the expense and difficulty of obtaining professional medical               
care, Wilma's mother usually treated her ailing child at home. Rudolph                     
remembered that during her youth, "my mother used to have all these home                   
remedies she would make herself, and I lived on them". Many nights her mother,             
herself tired after a long day's work, would sit on Wilma's bed and massage her             
daughter's leg well into the evening hours. Blanche Rudolph kept telling her               
polio-stricken daughter she would one day walk without braces.                             
In 1952, 12-year old Wilma Rudolph finally achieved her dream of shedding her               
handicap and becoming like other children. Wilma's older sister was on a                   
basketball team, and Wilma vowed to follow in her footsteps. While in high                 
school Wilma was on the basketball team, when she was spotted by Tennessee State           
track and field coach Edward S. Temple. Being discovered by Temple was a major             
break for a young athlete. The day he saw the tenth grader Wilma Rudolph for the           
first time, he knew he had found a natural athlete. Wilma had already gained               
some track experience on Burt High School's track team two years before, mostly             
as a way to keep busy between basketball seasons.                                           
While attending Burt High School, Rudolph became a basketball star, setting                 
state records for scoring and leading her team to the state championship. By the           
time she was 16, she earned a berth on the U.S. Olympic track and field team and           
came home from the 1956 Melbourne Games with an Olympic bronze medal in the 4 x             
100-meter relay.                                                                           
At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome she won three Olympic titles; the 100 m, 200           
m and the 4 x 100 m relay. The temperature climbed toward 100 degrees, 80,000               
spectators jammed the Stadio Olimpico. Rudolph ran the 100-meter dash in an                 
impressive 11 seconds flat. She also won the 200-meter dash in 23.2 seconds, a             
new Olympic record. After these twin triumphs, she was being hailed throughout             
the world as "the fastest woman in history." Finally, on September 11, 1960, she           
combined with Tennessee State teammates Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams and                 
Barbara Jones to win the 400-meter relay in 44.5 seconds, setting a world record.           
Rudolph had a special, personal reason to hope for victory--to pay tribute to               
Jesse Owens, the celebrated American athlete who had been her inspiration, also             
the star of the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin, Germany.                             
Rudolph retired from track competition in 1962 after winning two races at a U.S.-Soviet     
meet. In 1963, Rudolph was granted a full scholarship to Tennessee State                   
University where she ultimately received her bachelor's degree in elementary               
education. After her athletic career, Rudolph worked as a teacher at Cobb                   
Elementary School, coaching track at Burt High School, and as a sports                     
commentator on national television.                                                         
Wilma married her high school sweetheart Robert Eldridge in 1963, and had four             
children: Yolanda (b. 1958), Djuanna (b. 1964), Robert Jr. (b. 1965) and Xurry (b.         
1971). Wilma and Eldridge later divorced. In 1977, she published her                       
autobiography, Wilma: The Story of Wilma Rudolph.                                           
In July of 1994, shortly after her mother’s death, Wilma Rudolph was diagnosed           
with brain and throat cancer. On November 12, 1994, Wilma Rudolph age 54, died             
in her home in Brentwood, Tennessee of brain cancer. At the time of her death,             
she had four children, eight grandchildren, and over 100 nieces and nephews.               
Thousands of mourners filled Tennessee State University's Kean Hall on November             
17, 1994 for the memorial service in her honor. Others attended the funeral at             
Clarksville's First Baptist Church. Across Tennessee, the state flag flew at               
half-mast. Nine months after Wilma's death, Tennessee State University, on                 
August 11, 1995, dedicated its new six-story dormitory the Wilma G. Rudolph                 
Residence Center. A black marble marker was placed on her grave in Clarksville's           
Foster Memorial Garden Cemetery by the Wilma Rudolph Memorial Commission on                 
November 21, 1995.