Wilma Rudolph: Overcoming Obstacles

WIlma Rudolph running on a track

By Hannah S.
Col. Moses Parker Middle School in Chelmsford, MA
5th Grade Entry, ‘06 Will McDonough Writing Contest

Imagine that you are the 20th child born into a poor black family in 1940. You are born prematurely, only weighing 4 1/2 pounds. High-quality medical care is neither available nor affordable. Although you will face more obstacles in your early years than most people face in their entire lives, you will overcome these challenges and go on to achieve fame and glory. This is the beginning of Wilma Rudolph’s amazing story.

Wilma’s mother nursed her at home during her early years through many serious illnesses. However, when Wilma was 5 years old her left foot twisted inward and her mother had to call the doctor. The doctor announced she had Polio and would never walk again, but Wilma and her mother had different plans for her. “My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.” One Sunday at church Wilma simply detached her hated metal braces and walked down the aisle.

After that, there was no stopping her. In high school, she led her basketball team to a state championship and was invited to attend a track camp at Tennessee State University. In 1956 at the age of 16, she went to the Olympic Games where her relay team won the bronze medal. In 1960, at the Olympic Games in Rome, Wilma was the first African American woman to receive three Olympic Gold Medals.

Wilma Rudolph’s accomplishments took courage and determination. I have learned a lot from her remarkable story. I have a disability which sometimes makes it hard for me to learn. Right now I am doing fantastic, but if things become difficult, I can think about how Wilma Rudolph persevered to overcome adversity. She said, “The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.”

She is certainly correct.

Krull, Kathleen, Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Runner, 1996
https://women’shistory.about.com Women’s History: Wilma Rudolph Quotes