Born in 1940 - Died in 1994
When Wilma Rudolph was four years old, she had a disease called
polio which causes people
to be crippled and unable to walk.
To make matters worse, her family was poor and could not afford
good medical care. She was from a large family. She was the
20th child of 22 children. Her father was a railroad
porterand her mother was a maid.
Her mother decided she would do everything she could to help
Wilma to walk again. The doctors had said she would not
be able to walk. She took her every week on a long bus trip to
a hospital to receive therapy.
It didn't help, but the doctors
said she needed to give Wilma a massage every day by rubbing her legs. She
taught the brothers and sisters how to do it, and they also rubbed her
legs four times a day.
By the time she was 8, she could walk with a leg brace. After that,
she used a high-topped shoe to support her foot. She played basketball
with her brothers every day.
Three years later, her mother came home to find her playing basketball
by herself bare-footed. She didn't even have to use the
A track coach encouraged her to start running. She ran so well that
during her senior year in high school,
she qualified for the 1956
Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. She won a bronze medal in the
women's 400-meter relay.
In 1959, she qualified for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome by setting a
world's record in the 200-meter race. At the Olympics that year
she won two gold medals; one for the 100-meter race and one for
the 200-meter race.
Then she sprained her ankle, but she ignored the
pain and helped her team to win another gold medal for
relay! In the picture above you see the three gold medals she won
at the Rome Olympics.
She retired from running when she was 22 years old, but she went
on to coach women's track teams and encourage young people.
Wilma thought God had a greater purpose for her than to win
three gold medals. She started the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to help
children learn about discipline and hard work.
She died of brain cancer in 1994. Even though she is no longer alive,
her influence still lives on in the lives of many young people who
look up to her.
This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2001.
Other Activities Play an Online Game at Quia
From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster
(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)
: an infectious virus disease marked by inflammation of nerve
cells in the spinal cord
accompanied by fever and often paralysis
and wasting of muscles,
called also infantile paralysis
1 : a person who carries baggage (as at a hotel)
2 : a railroad employee who waits on passengers....
: the treatment of disease especially by massage, exercise,
water, or heat
Pronunciation: mə-'sahzh, - 'sahj
: treatment (as of the body) by rubbing, stroking, kneading, or
Function: noun plural
: a series of international athletic contests held in a different
country once every four years
Research Links Wilma Rudolph
Women in History
Encyclopedia of World Biography
Wilma Rudolph lesson plan from Kim's Korner
Wilma Rudolph Chronology
My Hero, Wilma Rudolph
Wilma Rudolph, ESPN
Voice of America
Wilma Rudolph Quotes
Tennessee History for Kids
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A LIBRARY OF
Wilma Rudolph (A&E)
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Stick to It!: The Story of Wilma Rudolph (Spyglass Books)
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Wilma Rudolph, Newmaster Reading Comprehension, Homework Helpers, Grade 3
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Life-Skills for Middle School, Vol. 3 (Learner's Workbook)
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by Victoria Sherrow (selected pages)
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Wilma Rudolph Champion Athlete
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Wilma Rudolph Olympic Track Star
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Wilma Rudolph (First Biographies)
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Credits and Solutions
Picture courtesy of Corbis.com
Puzzles on these pages courtesy of
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and Armored Penguin
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