Wilma Rudolph, once told she would not walk, became the world’s fastest woman 60 years ago

Wilma Rudolph
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Few could have predicted that a child battling polio would one day win three Olympic gold medals on the track.

Once burdened by a leg brace and told she might never walk again, Wilma Rudolph won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the 1960 Rome Olympics as the first American woman win three track and field gold medals a single Games.

Rudolph would become one of the most beloved figures in Olympic history and inspire generations of athletes with her speed, grace and story of perseverance. She completed her gold medal hat trick 60 years ago today as part of a 4x100m relay.

Born prematurely in Clarksville, Tennessee, Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. During childhood, she fought pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio, which temporarily paralyzed her left leg and required her to wear a brace. Rudolph and her mother drove back and forth to Nashville – about 50 miles each way – so she could receive treatment. In between, her family members took turns massaging her leg.

“My doctor told me I would never walk again,” Rudolph wrote in her autobiography. “My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”

Rudolph progressed from the leg brace to an orthopedic shoe until she could walk unassisted. Soon, she took to sports, joining her school’s basketball team as a teenager.

She caught the attention of Ed Temple, coach of the Tigerbelles track team at Tennessee State, while he refereed a game in Clarksville. Temple invited Rudolph to attend his summer camp. She went to her first Olympics in 1956 at age 16, when she won a bronze medal in the 4x100m.

Four years later in Rome, Rudolph tied the world record of 11.3 seconds in the 100m semifinals, then easily won the final in 11.0 seconds (too much tailwind prevented it from being a world record). Three days later, she won the 200m. But Rudolph’s final race may have been the most important to her.

“The race that I think that she wanted more than anything else was the 4x100m relay,” Ed Temple told NBC Sports on “The Olympic Show” leading up to the 2000 Sydney Games. “And that was because her teammates had been in the 100m and the 200m, and they didn’t win any medals. And she was determined that they were gonna win a gold medal.”

On Sept. 8, 1960, a team made up entirely of Tennessee State Tigerbelles won the 4x100m, with Rudolph as the anchor. That completed her gold-medal sweep in Rome.

Known for her graciousness and charming demeanor, she became an international star.

“Mr. Temple would always say that she was a person that never met a stranger,” Wyomia Tyus, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and one of Rudolph’s Tigerbelles teammates, said in a recent telephone interview.

Rudolph retired in 1962. Among her post-track pursuits, she taught second grade and later became a track coach at DePauw University in Indiana. But Rudolph admitted in her autobiography “Wilma” that life as an Olympic champion wasn’t what many expected it to be.

“I was besieged with money problems,” she wrote. “People were always expecting me to be a star, but I wasn’t making the money to live like one. I felt exploited both as a woman and as a Black person.”

In 1980, Tennessee State named its indoor track in her honor. She was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame, Black Athletes Hall of Fame and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.

Rudolph moved back to her home state in 1992, becoming a vice president for Nashville’s Baptist Hospital. Two years later, she was diagnosed with brain and throat cancer. She died on Nov. 12, 1994, at age 54.

Her legacy continues to stir inspiration on and off the track.

“She had a grace of her own,” Rudolph’s Rome relay teammate Lucinda Williams said on “The Olympic Show.” “She carried with her the pride and the joy, the pain, the heartaches of being a female athlete.”

MORE: Wyomia Tyus’ Olympic protest resonates 52 years later

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Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final