Wilma Rudolph was an African American Olympic Athlete who competed in the Olympic Games of 1956 and 1960. She was also the first American Woman to win three gold medals in track and field events during a single Olympic Games.
Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940 in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee. Weighing a mere 4.5 pounds, Wilma was born premature, and had also instantaneously contracted infantile paralysis; a disease which took her eleven years to fully recover from. Wilma’s compromised immune system also meant that she regularly suffered bouts of polio and scarlet fever due in her early years.
After completely recovering from her illness, Wilma started playing basketball for her high school, after which she was discovered by future United States Olympic Head Track and Field Coach, Ed Temple. Rudolph trained extensively under Temple, with whom she built upon her previous track experience from Burt High School. She continued to train under Temple and she consistently improved her record. By the time Rudolph was sixteen; her fastest times were good enough to have her placed in the United States Olympic Track and Field Team of 1956. Rudolph won the bronze medal in the 4x100m relay race in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics alongside Mae Faggs, Margaret Matthews, and Isabelle Daniels.
In 1959, when Rudolph was only 19; she went on to win another Gold Medal in the 4x100m relay race, as well as a silver medal in the individual 100m race. She also performed excellently in the Association of American Universities (AAU) tournaments, where she first won an individual 100m race.
The 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome would see Rudolph become the first American woman in history to win three gold medals in separate track and field events. Her most impressive feat was to win the 100m race in 11 seconds; however, the time was not accepted as a world record due to the presence of an appreciable tailwind. Nonetheless, Rudolph went on to win the 200m race with an impressive time of 23.2 seconds; this time however, was recorded as