With courage that burned as bright as the sun, track star Wilma Glodean Rudolph (1940-1994) survived scarlet fever, pneumonia, and polio at age 4 to become a triumphant Olympic winner and called "the fastest woman in the world."
"The triumph can't be had without the struggle," she once said.
Born in the segregated town of Clarksville, Tennessee, the 20th of 22 children, Rudolph walked with a brace until age nine. She was teased for limping.
"My life wasn't like the average person who grew up and decided to enter the world of sports," she said. "The doctor told me I would never walk, but my mother told me I would, so I believed my mother."
With hard work and determination, she never lost a race in high school track competitions. At 16, she won a bronze medal in the 400-meter relay. Four summers later, in 1960, the "Black Gazelle" became the first American woman to win three gold medals. "I don't know why I run so fast," she said. "I just run."
"I loved the feeling of freedom in running, the fresh air, the feeling that the only person I'm competing with is me."
A mentor to athlete Florence Griffith Joyner and inspiration to many others, Rudolph became a track coach and school teacher. She established the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to help train and support future athletes.
"Sometimes it takes years to really grasp what has happened to your life," she said. "I just want to be remembered as a hardworking lady with certain beliefs."
With the sunshine, anything is possible.