Wilma Rudolph (1940 – 1994)
As a little girl, Wilma contracted polio and was left with a paralysed leg. The doctors told her they didn’t know if she would walk again, but her mum told her “You will walk again honey, I promise”.
Her mum took her to the city for treatment every week and her 21(!) siblings took turns massaging her weak leg. She used braces to walk, but when her parents were not home, she tried to walk without them. Although it was hard she got gradually stronger.
By age 9, she was indeed walking again and even playing basketball. Her coach asked if she’d like to join the track team. She did and won 20 races.”I don’t know why I run so fast, I just run”, she said.
She went on to become the fastest woman in the world, breaking 3 world records at the 1960’s Olympics.
Wilma said the key to winning was knowing how to lose, “Nobody wins all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday”.
Simone Biles (1997 -)
Simone is a gymnast who is so fast and agile that people cannot help but watch her. She was adopted when she was 3 and her mum taught her to be humble and that the only way to live a meaningful life is to do your best.
She started gymnastics at 6 years old and was so successful that by the time she went to the Rio Olympics in 2016 she was expected to win 5 medals!
One day she was asked, “How do you deal with that kind of pressure?” She replied “I try not to think about it. Right now, my goal is to be more consistent on the uneven bars”.
She went on to explain “Winning a medal can’t be a goal. It’s like my mum always says: if doing your best means you come out on top that’s awesome. If it means you finish fourth, that’s awesome too.”
At the Rio Olympics, she won 5 medals – four of them were gold!
Serena and Venus Williams (Born 1981 and 1980)
Richard Williams took his 2 daughters to play tennis every day. Although just 4 years old, Serena won a lot of tournaments despite not being able to touch the ground sitting on the benches.
The girls inspired people, even gang members in Compton where they grew up would watch them and ensure they were not disturbed when playing!
The sisters trained hard and often, they were totally committed to the game. As teenagers, they were so strong their father said they would become the best players in the world.
He was right, they have both been ranked number 1 and some of the most inspiring matches are when they play each other. Venus has won 7 grand-slam titles and Serena 23. They have also won 3 doubles Olympic gold medals playing together.