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Wilma Rudolph

Updated:2008-07-09 10:01 |

Rome, 5 September 1960, Games of the XVII Olympiad. Women's athletics, from right to left at the 200m finish: Wilma RUDOLPH of the United States 1st, Barbara LERCZAK-JANISZEWSKA of Poland 3rd and Judith HEINE of Germany 2nd. Credit : IOC Olympic Museum Collections
Rome, 5 September 1960, Games of the XVII Olympiad. Women's athletics, 
from right to left at the 200m finish: Wilma RUDOLPH of the United States 
1st, Barbara LERCZAK-JANISZEWSKA of Poland 3rd and Judith HEINE of Germany 
2nd. Credit : IOC Olympic Museum Collections

Other names: RUDOLPH, Wilma Glodean

Born: 23 June 1940

Birthplace: St. Bethlehem (United States)

Nationality: United States

Sport: Athletics


Melbourne / Stockholm 1956

Rome 1960


Olympic medals:

Gold: 3

Bronze: 1

Other results:

Pan American Games

Silver: 1 (59)

Overcoming Childhood Handicaps

As a small child, Wilma Rudolph suffered through polio, scarlet fever and double pneumonia. The 20th of 22 children, she overcame these handicaps to become one of the greatest women sprinters of all time. As a 16-year-old, she won a bronze medal in the 4x100m relay at the 1956 Olympics. Four years later, Rudolph set a world 200m record (22.9) at the 1960 U.S. Championships. At the Rome Olympics, she competed in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.

After equaling the world record of 11.3 seconds in the semifinals of the 100m, she won the final by three metres in 11.0. A following wind deprived her of an official world record in the 100m. Three days later she scored an easy victory in the 200m. Finally, she anchored the U.S. team to a world record of 44.4 seconds in the semifinals of the 4x100m relay and then earned her third gold medal in the final.

For her speed, grace, and beauty, the European press dubbed Rudolph "The Black Gazelle." The following year, Rudolph equalled the world 100m record (11.3) and four days later she posted a new record of 11.2 in addition to leading the U.S. to another world relay record. Her brilliant career ended with her retirement in 1962 after which she devoted herself to coaching and worked extensively with underprivileged children. Wilma Rudolph died tragically young from a brain tumor at the age of 54.

(Credit: IOC. Click here for further information.)

Editor : LiuAnqi

Opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics