Olympic Games Gold Medalist Athlete. Born in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, the 20th of her father's 22 children, her premature weight was 4½ pounds. A sickly child, the bulk of her early years were spent in bed. She suffered from double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio. After losing the use of her left leg, she was fitted with metal leg braces when she was 6. Her brothers and sisters took turns massaging her crippled leg every day. Once a week her mother drove her to a Nashville hospital for therapy. Despite further attacks of whooping cough, measles and chicken pox, Wilma - with her family's help - was out of her leg braces by age 9 and she never looked back. By age 16, she was an All-State basketball star and a bronze medalist in the relay in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. In 1957, Rudolph enrolled at Tennessee State University on a track scholarship; she gained national recognition in collegiate meets and set the world record for 2000 meters in July of 1960. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Rudolph became "the fastest woman in the world" and the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. She won the 100- and 200-meter races and anchored the U.S. team to victory in the 4 x 100-meter relay, breaking records along the way. Rudolph's Olympic performances were spectacular. She was named United Press Athlete of the Year in 1960, the AP Woman Athlete of the Year for 1960 and 1961 and received the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete in 1961. Rudolph later served as a track coach, an athletic consultant, and assistant director of athletics for the Mayor's Youth Foundation in Chicago. She was also the founder of the Wilma Rudolph Foundation. In November 1994, Wilma died at her home in Brentwood, Tennessee from a brain tumor. 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.
Bio by: Iola