Wilma Rudolph (June 23, 1940–November 12, 1994) was an American athlete. Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games, in 1956 and in 1960.
In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games. Along with other 1960 Olympic athletes, Rudolph became an international star due to the first international television coverage of the Olympics that year.
The powerful sprinter emerged from the 1960 Rome Olympics as“The Tornado”（龙卷风）, the fastest woman on earth. The Italians nicknamed her“La Gazzella Negra”(the Black Gazelle黑羚羊); to the French she was“La Perle Noire”(the Black Pearl黑珍珠).
Wilma Rudolph was born in nineteen forty, in Saint Bethlehem, Tennessee. She was born too early and only weighed two kilograms. She had many illnesses when she was very young, including pneumonia and scarlet fever. She also had polio, which damaged her left leg. When she was six years old, she began to wear metal leg braces because she could not use that leg. Every week, Wilma’s mother drove her to a special doctor eighty kilometers away. There, she got physical treatments to help heal her leg.
She later said,“My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”
Soon, her family’s attention and care showed results. By the time she was nine years old, she no longer needed her leg braces. As a teenager, Wilma joined the girl’s basketball team at Burt High School. C.C. Gray was the coach who supervised the team. She did very well in high school basketball. She once scored forty-nine points in one game, which broke the Tennessee state record.
Many people noted that Wilma was a very good basketball player and a very good athlete. One of these people was Ed Temple, who coached the track team of runners at Tennessee State University. Ed Temple asked C. C. Gray to organize a girl’s track team at the high school. He thought Wilma Rudolph would make a very good runner. She did very well on the new track team.
Wilma Rudolph went to her first Olympic Games when she was sixteen years old and still in high school. She competed in the nineteen fifty-six games in Melbourne, Australia. She was the youngest member of the United States team. She won a bronze medal, or third place, in the sprint relay event.
In nineteen fifty-seven, Wilma Rudolph started Tennessee State University, where she joined the track team. Wilma Rudolph trained hard while in college. She did very well at her track competitions against teams from other colleges. In nineteen sixty, she set the world record for the fastest time in the two thousand meter event. She said:“I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.”
That same year, Wilma Rudolph went to the Olympics again, this time in Rome, Italy. She won two gold medals—first place—in the one hundred meter and the two hundred meter races. She set a new Olympic record of twenty-three point two seconds for the two hundred meter dash.
Her team also won the gold medal in the four hundred meter sprint relay event, setting a world record of forty-four point five seconds. These three gold medals made her one of the most popular athletes at the Rome games. These victories made people call her the“world’s fastest woman.”
(From Wikipedia and PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English)