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Motivation Tuesday: Wilma Rudolph Was Told She Would Never Walk, She Became a Star Athlete

Nothing inspires and motivates like a good story of someone beating the odds. Wilma Rudolph is such a story. The odds were stacked against her from the day she entered this world. But she went on to become a star athlete. Watch this video:

As a child Wilma Rudolph was what some might call a cripple. A better term would be a person with disability. However, with perseverance and an unshakeable belief in herself, would soar to heights attained by few. Credit should go to the most important person in a child’s life. One who can make or break a person with a word of mouth; a mother.

When the doctors said Rudolph would never walk again, her mother told her she would. She chose to believe her mother.

As mentioned the odds were against her from her very first day on earth.

For starters, she was born prematurely at only 4.5 pounds (about 2kg), on June 23, 1940. Babies born prematurely (before week 37 of pregnancy) are at risk of death and short-term and long-term effects on their health if they survive.

Advances in neonatal care and treatments have increased the chances for survival of babies born preterm, and reduced risk of health effects. But Rudolph was born way back in 1940 when medicine was not as advanced.

Another thing going against her was that she was a black child born into poverty in the segregated South. This made it challenging to get the medical care and treatment. She suffered several childhood illnesses, including polio which left her essentially disabled. At one time, she was even told she would never walk again.

Without having to repeating all that is in the video (which gives a good summary account to an otherwise relatively long story), Rudolph would go on to make a star athlete, even becoming a first. She was the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic games.

Rudolph made the wise decision to stop competing in athletics at the right time. Her athletics story and legacy end on a high note. This is not an easy thing to do, as the limelight and glory can be intoxicating.

Many a great athlete, including Usain Bolt and Mohammad Ali, have fallen into the into the trap of hanging around too long, eventually tarnishing their legacy toward the end of their career.

As it turns out, Rudolph had already planned her exit.

After competing in the 1960 Summer Olympics, the 1963 graduate of Tennessee State University became an educator and coach.[1] She knew an athlete’s life is a short one and made a “plan B” for herself.

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us. – Wilma Rudolph

Related: Bruce Lee the Man Who Overcame Great Obstacles to Become a Fitness Legend


[1] Wikipedia: Wilma Rudolph

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