The human will is the most incredible thing. I believe it is the human will that keeps us going, when everyone else expects us to sit, or even quit. I have always been fascinated by the heroes and sheroes who have made indelible marks in world history; and illustrated distinguished triumphs over seemingly, insurmountable adversity.
I can vividly recall reading about Wilma Rudolph when I was in grade school. Her life epitomized, “breaking through limitations.” Over the last three decades, I have thought about Wilma when so-called, “limitations” presented themselves in my own life. I think of Wilma, and I am passionately reminded of the amazing power of the human will.
Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely and weighed only 4.5 pounds. Most of her childhood was spent in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee. There, she was bedridden as she battled double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio. At six years old, she lost the use of her left leg. Subsequently, she was fitted with leg braces. Later on in life, she was often quoted as saying: “I spent most of my time trying to get them off. (I had an uncompromising resolve) to be a normal kid.”
At the age of 16, when she was only a sophomore in high school, The 5′ 11″ Wilma Rudolph won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. And, in the 1960 Rome Olympics, Rudolph became “the fastest woman in the world.” She also was the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. She won the 100-and 200-meter races; and also anchored the U.S. team to victory in the 4 x 100-meter relay, breaking records along the way.
Wilma Rudolph is remembered by family and admirers alike, for her incredible calm and graceful demeanor when under pressure. Valiantly and brilliantly, she removed all of her “struggles” during the course of her lifetime. She once said: “The most important aspect is to be yourself and have confidence in yourself … triumph can’t be had without a struggle.”
In 1994, Wilma Rudolph died of brain cancer at the age 54. Few would argue that she lived a full, purposeful, and triumphant life. Rudolph expected victory when just about everyone else would have understood if she’d just lay down, sit or even quit. Thank you, Wilma, for being the contrary.