March has been designated as Women's History Month and I am happy to kick it off with a woman that I admire. Her name is Wilma Rudolph. She was born premature in 1940 in Tennessee. Wilma had to battle many illnesses and had to wear a brace on her left leg. But with determination and lots of hard work she became a gifted runner.
In high school she was given the name "Skeeter" because she was such a fast runner. At the age of 16 she was the youngest member of the U.S.. team at the 1956 Summer Olympic Games, where she won a bronze medal for her performance in the sprint relay event.
After high school, she attended Tennessee State University where she majored in education and began training for the 1960 Olympics. And the 1960 Olympic Games is where the magic happened for Wilma. You could say it was Wilma's golden time. She broke world records in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and she was part of the U.S. 4-by-100-meter relay team who beat the world record.
This made Wilma Rudolph the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games.
She eventually retired from the sport and became a teacher and a track coach. Wilma was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and was presented with various other special honors. She died in 1994 after losing her battle with brain cancer.
As a former track athlete, I admire and respect her excellent athletic ability. She achieved Olympic greatness by winning three gold medals. But it's not the gold that shines the most when one thinks about Wilma Rudolph. It's her character.
She once said, "Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time."
Learn how to lose. These words spoken from a woman who is a champion. Wilma knew that a true champion knows how to pick themselves up after a loss and move on and try to win again. A lesson I learned many times after running track for four years in high school. I lost many races but it didn't stop me from trying. Eventually, I began to win a few, and I do mean a few. The key is to stay in the game.
That's what I take away from this great woman's legacy. Stay in the game. Medal or no medal. The victory is in you attempting to achieve your place in the winner's circle.
Wilma Rudolph, I salute you as we celebrate outstanding women in history.