She was born prematurely, the 20th of 22 children. As a young child, the polio virus caused her right leg to atrophy and twist. Doctors declared she would never walk again, but her family never gave up. They took turns massaging her leg every single day. Twice a week, they drove her 50 miles to a specialist for treatments. Finally, two years later, with the use of braces and orthopedic shoes, she started to walk.
Shed The Shoes
She shed the hated brace and threw the orthopedic shoes away for good when she was eleven. And she didn’t just walk; she ran…and ran…and ran. Within a year she was challenging, and beating, the neighborhood boys in races. She tried out for and starred on her high school basketball team. By age 15, just four years after throwing away her braces, she was invited by Tennessee State’s track and field coach Ed Temple to train with the his team.
At age 16, she qualified for the 1956 Olympic team, winning a bronze medal. But Wilma Rudolph became a superstar in the 1960 Olympics. Although she sprained her ankle before her first heat in the 100, she still won gold medals in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter relay.
Yes, Wilma Rudolph is an inspiration, but one wonders: was she so successful in spite of her early handicaps or because of them? Wilma herself answers this question with these words, words that transcend her own struggle and become a universal truth, “The triumph can’t be had without the struggle.”
The news reports of recession and unemployment are constant reminders of our struggles. Like Wilma Rudolph, many of us cannot control our circumstances. But, like Wilma, we can control our responses to those circumstances. For two years, she could not walk, but those two years gave her an intense desire to run, and run she did.
There is strength in your struggles. Discover it and you, like Wilma Rudolph, will soon be running.