At age 4, Wilma Rudolph was severely weakened when she contracted polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system. She survived the illness, but she lost the use of her left leg. Doctors told her she would be unable to walk correctly without braces, if at all, for the rest of her life. However, through the efforts of her loving and devoted family and her own determination, she learned to run and rose from disability to Olympic glory.
When Wilma was 13, she got involved in organized sports including basketball and track. She soon was not just running, but winning the races. In four seasons of high school track meets, she never lost a race. In 1956, at the age of sixteen and just a sophomore in high school, she participated in the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia where she took home the bronze medal.
At the 1960 Olympics, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash and the 400 meter relay. She tied the world record in the 100-meter and set a new Olympic record in the 200.