Wilma Rudolph

The odds were against Rudolph when she was born premature at just over 4 pounds in 1940—but she still prevailed. The 20th of 22 children, the Tennessee native suffered from physical ailments but became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field events at the 1960 Olympics. Rudolph earned wins in in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and the 4 x 100 relay. She was named the Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year for 1960 and 1961. She died from brain cancer in 1994, at age 54.

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