In celebration of Women’s History Month, UNDO is focused on highlighting female trailblazers in sports. Born a sickly child in Clarksville, Tennessee, Wilma Rudolph was forced to wear a brace on her left leg. After battling double pneumonia, polio, and scarlet fever, Rudolph went on to become a world-record-holding Olympic champion and international sports icon in track and field.

  • At age 16, Rudolph would take bronze in the 4 x 100-meter relay in Melbourne, Australia (1956), and won three gold medals four years later in the 1960 Summer Olympics in the 100 and 200-meter individual events and the 4 x 100-meter relay in Rome, Italy.
  • Rudolph earned the title “Fastest Women in the World” in the 60s and became the first American Woman and first African American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
  • Because the 1960 Summer Olympics were the first to be broadcasted worldwide, Rudolph gained international fame following her success.
  • Rudolph became known as “The Tornado” in the U.S. and “ La Gazzella Nera” or The Black Gazelle amongst the Italians.
  • For her post-games European tour, Rudolph returned home to Tennessee where “Welcome Wilma Day” was held on October 4, 1960. Rudolph insisted that her homecoming parade and banquet would be integrated, making it the first fully integrated municipal event in the city’s history. Thousands of people lined the city’s streets to welcome the Olympic athlete home.

“Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. 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

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