I must tell you about this chap in the church that I attend who just loves to watch movies, sing songs, and tell stories. Although I don’t know him personally, he comes across as unpretentious and is often seen swaggering around the premises with a down-to-earth air of confidence that makes him genuine and believable. And when he gets going, his innate talent will spring unconsciously to the surface and that’s when he could break out into a short rendition of James Taylor’s “You’ve got a friend”, launch into a story about an unassuming and unsung hero, or more recently even popping open a can of “cat food” and eating a spoonful of it just to illustrate a point.
He didn’t disappoint once again when I last bumped into him and got introduced to an American girl by the name of Wilma Glodean Rudolph. Born prematurely at a tinge over 2kg, she caught infantile paralysis which was caused by the polio virus, as a very young child. By the time she was twelve years of age, she had also survived scarlet fever, whooping cough, chickenpox, and measles. In spite of her large family comprising 21 brothers and sisters, her parents drove her across large distances to seek treatment to straighten her twisted leg. At one stage, it was feared that Wilma was not going to ever be able to walk normally.
However, as it turned out, she was quite a unique person. She carried a strong belief that she could overcome her physical disability and follow in her sister’s footsteps to become a school basketball player. In 1952, 12-year-old Wilma Rudolph finally achieved her dream of shedding her handicap and becoming like other children. This was indeed the turning point for her. She became a basketball star, thanks to her unwavering determination and relentless training regime. It was during this time that Wilma was talent-spotted by Tennessee State track and field coach Edward S. Temple, who saw the “natural athlete” in her and the potential of grooming her to be the best in her area of specialty.
The rest is history!
Wilma competed in two Olympics but it was the at the 1960 Summer Games in Rome that saw her as the first American woman to win three gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and the 4x100m relay. 80,000 spectators jammed the Stadio Olimpico to watch Wilma Rudolph run the 100-metre dash in an impressive 11 seconds flat. They media and the world hailed her as the “fastest woman in history”.
If you Google her name and see for yourself how bent her leg was before her successful treatment [it was practically twisted in the other direction to what a normal leg should be looking like], you will better appreciate how her intense belief resulted in what I would call a “miracle” of boundless proportions. Most people in this state would be so grateful if they can just walk normally again. But Wilma had plans to do so much more! She was determined to run, and run, and run, and to go for the gold.
The word “belief” is defined as the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true. It would have seemed that Wilma Rudolph never doubted herself one bit in her quest for the highest accolade. She showed us that if we were to envision something “impossible” to be true even before we even get there, there is every chance that we can go out and achieve it.
Thank you, Joel, for relating this story to me. Because of you, more people out there can be encouraged.