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Olympic gold medalist Wilma Rudolph was born with polio She could barely use her left leg and suffered pneumonia and scarlet fever before the age of four but hard work and determination changed Rudolphs life With vigorous therapy she regained the use of her leg began participating in track meets and went on to win three Olympic gold medals as well as many more races Daily therapy strengthened her crippled leg Rudolph was born on June 23 1940 to Ed and Blanche Rudolph in Bethlehem Tennessee Diagnosed with polio at birth she also weighed only four-and-a-half pounds Her first few years were difficult as she suffered from double pneumonia twice and scarlet fever The polio made it difficult to use her left leg but doctors at Meharry Medical College in Nashville Tennessee said Rudolph might regain the use of her leg if she underwent daily therapeutic massages Her mother took Rudolph to Meharry for heat and water therapy once a week for two years The rest of the week her mother and three of her older siblings massaged her crippled leg at least four times a day This treatment had an immediate beneficial effect At five Rudolph was fitted with a steel brace which she wore for the next six years The first time she ever attended school was at the age of seven when she started second grade at Cobb Elementary Her life took an important turn in the seventh grade when a new high school was constructed for blacks While attending Burt High School Rudolph was introduced to organized sports especially basketball A year later her basketball coach resurrected the track team and asked her to join She immediately excelled and ran in the 50 meter 75 meter 100 meter and the relay events When she was thirteen years old she ran in twenty different races and won them all Rudolphs first track coach Clinton Gray is credited with nicknaming her
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