History Of The First African American Female Track Star
Wilma Rudolph was born on June 23, 1940. She was born prematurely and weighed only 4.5lbs but since the Rudolphs were blacks she and her mother were not cared for at the local hospital because it was for whites only. She is considered to be the first African American female track star.
In her childhood, Wilma contracted polio and because of the efforts of her mother and support of her brothers and sisters she was able to walk normally when she was 12, This is when she made up her mind to become an athlete, initially she played basketball in high school and set records for scoring and also lead her team to a state championship. But later she moved on to athletics and took part in her first Olympic games at the age of 16. Here she won a bronze medal in 4x4 relay.
On September 7, 1960, she won 3 gold medals in the Olympics making her the first American woman to do so. She retired from track competitions in 1962. In 1963, she married her high school sweetheart, Robert Eldridge and had four children namely Yolanda, Djuanna, Robert Jr. and Xurry. The couple got divorced later.
After retiring from track competitions, she taught at her school and went on to take up coaching positions first in Maine, and then Indiana. She also became a sports commentator on national television.
In 1994, Wilma was diagnosed with brain and throat cancer and she succumbed to this disease on November 12, 1994 at the age of 54. She died at her home in Brentwood, Tennessee and as a mark of respect to her the state flag flew at half mast across Tennessee.
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