By the age of five, Wilma Rudolph battled pneumonia, scarlet fever, and infantile paralysis from the poliovirus. While she recovered from all, she suffered a loss of strength in her left leg and foot and wore a leg brace until she was twelve years old.​

Rudolph set many records in Rome. Wilma not only became the first woman to win three Gold medals at the Olympics, but she became the first American woman to win a gold medal in the 100-meter race since 1936. During her opening heat of the 200-meter dash, she set an Olympic record of 23.2 seconds. In 110 °F, her relay team won the 4x100-meter with a world record of 44.4 seconds in the semifinals.

At 20-years old, Wilma Rudolph quickly emerged as one of the most popular athletes of the 1960 Olympics. After Rudolph's wins, she became known throughout the world as "the fastest woman in history" and the "fastest woman on earth." The French nicknamed her "La Perle Noire," and the Italians called her "La Gazzella Nera."

Once Wilma realized her dream to become the most famous runner in the world, she was having difficulty finding her motivation to continue her athletic career. During a race at Stanford University, Russia vs. the United States, Ms. Rudolph made a decision.

Ms. Rudolph's team was running behind Russia in the relay race. Her team grew further behind. As the race continued, she told herself that if she could catch the Russian runner, who was much further ahead, Wilma knew that she would again make history. If she could do that, catch the Russian, she'd retire from running. However, if she didn't catch her, she would continue to run for the next four years until the Tokyo Olympics.

Wilma Rudolph ran the fastest single race of her career, passed the Russian runner, and won the race. As she received a standing ovation in her own country, she thought that it was the grandest moment of her career. So she retired that day and said that she never regretted that decision.

First American woman to win three Olympic gold medals.​

“The triumph can't be had without the struggle. And I know what struggle is. I have spent a lifetime trying to share what it has meant to be a woman first in the world of sports so that other young women have a chance to reach their dreams."


Bronze medal 4 X 100-meter relay — Olympic Games, Melbourne, Australia 1956
World record 200-meter race —Olympic Trials, Texas Christian University 1960
Gold medal 100-meter dash — Olympic Games, Rome, Italy 1960
Gold medal 200-meter dash — Olympic Games, Rome, Italy 1960
Gold medal 4x100-meter relay — Olympic Games, Rome, Italy 1960


Sullivan Award — 1961
Female Athlete of the Year Award — Associated Press 1961
Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award — 1962
Black Athletes Hall of Fame Inductee — 1973
National Track and Field Hall of Fame Inductee — 1974
Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee — 1980
U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Inductee — 1983
Silver Anniversary Award — National Collegiate Athletic Association 1987
National Sports Awards "Great Ones" — 1993

Wilma Rudolph's vocal style was as confident and focused as she was. Despite difficulties, it remained soft, hopeful, and full of optimism. It always sounded like it was filled with appreciation for all she felt blessed to have. We love the joy that emanates when she spoke.

We believe that voices with such characteristics should have more representation in the world, whether it be human voice or digital. Today, organizations are thinking more about the power of voice in their communications and content. We help those organizations imagine the possibilities of a world in which digital voice matched the world of human voice.

Digital voice can be as dynamic, expressive, and representative of the world we hear around us — learn more about AI-Voice.


Cushy Sofa voices are defined as Soft, Deep, Breathy, and Nasal. Learn more about the unique characteristics that make up our voices and voice types here: VOCALiD Voice Types.

This is the twenty fourth in our Iconic Black Voices series. Make sure to come back to our blog every day this month as we highlight more iconic Black voices in celebration of Black History Month.

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