Watching the Olympics today I was reminded of the story of a woman who showed incredible perseverance to get to the Olympics, let alone emerge a champion.

Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely, the 20th of 22 siblings. At the age of four she contracted infantile paralysis (caused by the polio virus). Until she was nine, Wilma wore a brace on her left leg and foot (which had become twisted as a result) and for another two years, wore an orthopaedic shoe.  In addition, by the time she was twelve she had survived bouts of scarlet fever, whooping cough, chickenpox, and measles.

In 1952, at the age of twelve, she followed in her sister’s footsteps and began to play basketball. In the tenth grade her potential was recognized in track and field which she had taken up to remain active between basketball seasons.

At 16, she earned a berth on the U.S. Olympic track and field team and came home from the 1956 Melbourne Games with an Olympic bronze medal in the 4 x 100 relay.

At the Rome Olympic Games in 1960, at the age of 20 she won the 100 meter, the 200 meter, and got her third gold in the 4 x 100 relay with a world record.  After these wins, she was acclaimed “the fastest woman in history”. In 8 years she went from overcoming the effects of paralysis to Olympic glory, and became for me a great example of perseverance in the face of adversity.