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Wilma Rudolph - A Lesson In Resiliency

Today's post comes at you with inspiration and a HUGE dose of resiliency. It's an incredible story of overcoming obstacles and hardship that I hope will help inspire your own abilities to surmount your personal challenges, too.

Her name is Wilma Rudolph. And in 1960, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics.

That victory alone is incredible – but Wilma's story is more significant than that by far.

Her early life began at a disadvantage with cultural, financial, and physical odds all stacked against her. Wilma was born into a large (22 kids in total) African-American family and grew up in the 1950s segregated era of the South. 

As a child, Wilma contracted scarlet fever, double pneumonia, and polio at the age of 5. Disabled and unable to use her left leg, she required a brace until she was 12. Doctors believed she would never recover the ability to walk.

"But my mother told me I would," she later said. "I believed my mother."

With dedicated physical therapy, an incredible work ethic, and the help of family members who massaged her leg and helped keep her mobile – she eventually overcame her disability.

A few years later, after joining her high school basketball team, a Tennessee State University track coach noticed Wilma's agility and considerable speed and began training her.

Soon after that, at just 16 years old, she had qualified for the 1956 U.S. Olympic track and field team. She also earned her first medal at this time: a bronze in the 400-meter relay race. 

"The triumph can't be had without the struggle." – Wilma Rudolph

But Wilma's story didn't end there. Despite becoming pregnant during her senior year in high school, she pushed through her training and education. She eventually entered college, majoring in education. 

She went on to break several records and earn 3 gold medals in Rome, where the 1960 Olympics were held. That's when she also earned the moniker as the "fastest woman in the world." As expected, these achievements brought her international fame. 

Then, returning to her hometown in Tennessee, she used her notoriety to protest for civil rights. Demanding her high school homecoming celebrations be integrated, she refused to attend unless they were. Ultimately, approximately 1,100 participated in a banquet in her honor. There were several thousand more that lined the streets to attend her welcome home ceremony. 

Wilma retired from competing professionally a year later. She then went on to coach, teach, and run community centers dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth.

"Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday." – Wilma Rudolph

Talk about resilience and perseverance! There are still so many more takeaways from her story that I encourage you to view the resources I've linked below. I hope this post gave you a good dose of motivation for today. :-) Now - GO GET IT!

Make it an amazing day, and keep moving toward a better you!


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