Wilma Rudolph was an amazing American athlete; not only for the medals that she won for the United States, but also for the obstacles she had to overcome in her lifetime.
Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children in her large family. Her mother was a maid and her father was a railroad porter. At the age of four, she contracted polio and became crippled. Doctors told her mother repeatedly that Wilma would never be able to walk again. She was not able to receive good medical care because your family was poor; but her mother was determined to teach her daughter to walk again. Every day Wilma’s brothers and sisters helped in her quest to walk again by massaging her legs four times a day.
By the time that Wilma was 8 years old, she was able to walk slowly with a brace. She enjoyed playing basketball with her brothers with the brace attached to her leg. Surprisingly, when she was 11 years old, her mother came home from work to find her playing basketball, barefooted and without the brace.
Once Wilma Rudolph entered High School, she was encouraged by the track coach to join the track team. She out-performed everyone on her team and during her senior year, she qualified for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. She won the bronze medal for her efforts in the 400 meter relay.
Wilma Rudolph went on to qualify for the 1960 Olympic games when she set a new world’s record for the 200 meter race. During the Rome Olympics, she won gold medals for the 100 meter race and the 200 meter race. Despite having a sprained ankle, she raced in the 400 meter relay and won her third gold medal. Wilma Rudolph retired from running at the age of 22, but continued active in the sport as a coach for women’s track teams.
On July 14, 2004, the United States Postal Service issued a 23 cent definitive postage stamp that recognized Wilma Rudolph’s achievements. This postage stamp was the 5th stamp that was issued as part of the Distinguished Americans postage stamp series. If you would like to add the Wilma Rudolph postage stamp to your collection, contact Stamp Center today!