The first American woman ever to win three gold medals in the Olympics, Wilma Rudolph overcame major obstacles to make her mark in the record books and in life.
Rudolph contracted severe polio as a child. By age 16, she was an All-State basketball player and a bronze medalist in the 1956 Olympics. She attended Tennessee State University on a track scholarship, and returned for the 1960 Olympics – and Olympic glory, winning gold medals in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and the 4 x 100 meter relay. She set world records in all three events.
She was named United Press Athlete of the Year (1960), the AP Woman Athlete of the Year (1960, 1961) and received the Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete (1961). She has been inducted into the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and named one of five sports stars selected as America’s Greatest Women Athletes by the Women’s Sports Foundation, she is in the Black Sports Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. Rudolph gave women’s track a strong boost in America.
Since her competition days, she has written a best-selling autobiography, Wilma, and created the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to train young athletes. The “fastest woman in the world” inspired many with her life story.