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Wilma Rudolph was an African-American sprinter and Olympic champion who holds the record for being the first American to win three track and field gold medals in one Olympics event. She was called the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s.
See the fact file below for more information on the Wilma Rudolph or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Wilma Rudolph worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND POOR HEALTH
- Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940, in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee.
- She was the twentieth of 22 children from the two marriages of her father Ed.
- She grew up in Clarksville, Tennessee, where she attended elementary and high school.
- Her father worked as a railway porter while her mother worked as a maid.
- As a child, Rudolph was sickly. She got sick with pneumonia and scarlet fever.
- She also contracted infantile paralysis, also known as polio, when she was five years old, and walked with an orthopedic shoe or leg brace until she was 11 years old.
- At the time, medical care was limited to African-American residents of Clarksville, so Rudolph’s parents had to take her to a medical college in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Family members also helped her by giving her daily massage treatments.
- Physical therapy and Rudolph’s determination helped her overcome her disability.
- By the time she turned 12, she was able to walk without a brace or an orthopedic shoe.
- Rudolph attended the all-black Burt High School in Clarksville, where she was a star athlete in basketball and track.
- At 16, she competed in the 1956 Olympic Games and won a bronze medal in the 4×100-meter relay race.
- In 1957, she enrolled in Tennessee State University where she continued to compete in track.
- Rudolph studied under a work-study scholarship program in college.
- In Tennessee State, she was trained by track coach Ed Temple.
- Rudolph was a sophomore when she competed in the US Olympic track and field trials in Abilene, Texas, where she set a world record of 22.9 seconds for the 200-meter dash.At the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, she won gold medals in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and the 4×100-meter relay.
- She was the first American to win three gold medals in track and field in one Olympics event.
- She emerged from the Olympics with the nickname “Tornado” because of how fast she was.
- She was dubbed the “fastest woman on Earth”.
- Her other nicknames were “La Gazzella Nera” (Italian for “The Black Gazelle”) and “La Perle Noire” (French for “The Black Pearl”).
- The 1960 Olympics catapulted Wilma Rudolph into the spotlight, making her a running superstar. Not only was she fast, she was also photogenic and full of poise.
- Rudolph and her Olympic teammates continued to compete in meets in Europe before returning to the United States.
- To highlight her Olympic victories, a ten-minute documentary film entitled “Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Champion” was made by the United States Information Agency in 1961.
- She was awarded Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year Award in 1960 and 1961 and the AAU’s 1961 Sullivan Award as Outstanding Amateur Athlete.
- At just 22, she retired as a runner and focused on teaching and mentoring young athletes.
- She became an assistant director for a youth foundation in Chicago.
- She also continued her education and graduated from Tennessee State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education in 1963.
PERSONAL LIFE AND LEGACY
- In high school, Rudolph became pregnant with her first child, Yolanda, and gave birth to her in 1958.
- In 1961, Rudolph married runner William Ward, and they divorced more or less two years after.
- In 1963, she married her high school sweetheart Robert Eldridge, who was also the father of her first child.
- They had three children more together. They divorced after seventeen years of marriage.
- She was inducted to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame; the International Sports Hall of Fame in 1980; and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983.
- She wrote a biography entitled “Wilma”, which was published in 1977.
Her autobiography was made into a television film that year.
- To promote amateur athletic programs in the 1980s, she established the Wilma Rudolph Foundation.
- In 1993, she was given the National Sports Award.
- She died on November 12, 1994, in Brentwood, Tennessee, after losing a battle with brain cancer.
- Even after death, her legacy remained as one of the fastest women in track and one of the most inspiring athletes, especially to the younger generation.
- In 2004, she became the face on a 23-cent postage stamp as a tribute by the United States Postal Service.
Wilma Rudolph Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Wilma Rudolph across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Wilma Rudolph worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Wilma Rudolph who was an African-American sprinter and Olympic champion who holds the record for being the first American to win three track and field gold medals in one Olympics event. She was called the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Wilma Rudolph Facts
- Wilma’s Life
- Arranging Events
- Terms to Remember
- Track Dos and Don’ts
- Awards and Honors
- World Record News
- Wilma’s Take on Winning
- Track Stars
- Admirable Qualities
- Cheering Athletes
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Use With Any Curriculum
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