Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Track and Field » Wilma Rudolph Biography - Early Obstacles, Not Just Walking, But Running, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Wins Bronze At Melbourne Olympics - SELECTED WRITINGS BY RUDOLPH:

Wilma Rudolph - "you Can't Go Back To Living The Way You Did Before"

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Despite all the awards and praise, Rudolph received little or no money for her success, and though she had to work for a living, she found it hard to fit back into her old life. According to Great Women in Sports, she told a reporter for Ebony, "You become world famous and you sit with kings and queens, and then your first job is just a job. You can't go back to living the way you did before because you've been taken out of one setting and shown the other. That becomes a struggle and makes you struggle."

Related Biography: Coach Ed Temple

Edward Stanley Temple, who served as head women's track coach at Tennessee State University from 1953 to 1994, led over forty athletes to Olympic competition, bringing home a total of twenty-three Olympic medals (thirteen gold, six silver, and four bronze). His teams also won thirty-four national team titles and thirty Pan-American Games medals. As a women's coach, Temple laid a foundation for growth in women's athletics, a boom that continues to this day.

Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on September 20, 1927, Temple manifested an early interest in sports. An All-State athlete in track and field, football, and basketball at John Harris High School, he became the school's first African-American captain of both the track and field and basketball teams.

Temple attended Tennessee State University. A sprinter, Temple ran 9.7 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 21.5 in the 220-meter dash while at the school. After obtaining a bachelor's degree, Temple continued to study, eventually earning a master's in health and physical education. While he was still studying, in 1953, he was offered a position as assistant Women's Track and Field Coach, and later that year, became head coach. He called the women's team the "Tigerbelles," a name that would soon become famous in national and international track circles.

Temple's team members included many women who later became well-known in track and field; Wilma Rudolph was the most notable. The team competed throughout Europe and North America, and was so successful that Temple was chosen as head coach for the Women's Track team for the Olympics in 1960 and 1964.

Temple retired from Tennessee State University in May, 1994. He was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Helms Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, and the Ohio Valley Conference Hall of Fame.

Although Rudolph could have competed in the 1964 Olympics, she decided not to. She was not sure she could win gold medals again, and didn't want to look like a fading athlete in the eyes of the public. She retired from competition in 1963, the same year she graduated from Tennessee State University, and became a secondgrade teacher and girls' track coach at her childhood school, Cobb Elementary in Clarksville, where she was paid $200 a month. She also married her high school sweetheart, Robert Eldridge, but was later divorced from him and raised her four children—two daughters, Yolanda and Djuana, and two sons, Robert, Jr. and Xurry—on her own. She lived in Evansville, Indiana, where she was a coach at DePauw University, and later moved to Boston, where she worked for the Job Corps program in Poland Springs, Maine.

In 1967, Rudolph was invited by Vice President Hubert Humphrey to work on a program called "Operation Champion." This program took well-known athletes into poor inner-city areas, where they trained young people in sports. When this project was complete, the Job Corps transferred Rudolph to St. Louis; after that, she went to Detroit, where she taught at Palham Junior High School. In 1977 she spent time in Clarksville, Tennessee, before going back to Detroit.

Rudolph's autobiography, Wilma, was published in 1977. In that same year, the NBC network produced a television film titled Wilma, starring Cicely Tyson as Rudolph. In 1991, Rudolph served as ambassador to the European celebration that marked the fall of the Berlin Wall. Rudolph also founded the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting amateur athletics.

Rudolph has been inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Helms Hall of Fame, the Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame, and the Black Athletes Hall of Fame. A street in Clarksville, Tennessee, is named in her honor. In 1987, she was the first woman to receive the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Silver Anniversary Award. In 1993, she was honored as one of "The Great Ones" at the first National Sports Awards.

A year later, on November 12, 1994, Rudolph died of brain cancer in Nashville, Tennessee. She was buried with the Olympic flag draped over her casket.

Rudolph's achievements as an athlete were remarkable for many reasons. She was a woman and an African American in a time when fewer opportunities existed for both groups, and she also overcame serious childhood illness and disability to not only walk normally, but win gold medals in national and Olympic competition. In the Kansas City Star, Claude Lewis summed up Rudolph as "an athletic queen who mesmerized the international sporting world through personal achievement, physical heroics, and a stunning elegance that dwarfed her impoverished beginnings." A writer in Contemporary Heroes and Heroines quoted Rudolph's hero, Jesse Owens, who wrote, "Wilma Rudolph's courage and her triumph over her physical handicaps are among the most inspiring jewels in the crown of Olympic sports…. She wasspeed and motion incarnate, the most beautiful image ever seen on the track."

Wilma Rudolph - Related Biography: Coach Ed Temple [next] [back] Wilma Rudolph - Wins Gold In 1960 Olympics

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