Long ago, before the vaccine for polio was discovered, children were not protected against this terrible disease. Wilma was a little child when she contracted polio and was left with a paralyzed leg.
"I'm not sure she's ever going to walk again," the doctor said.
"You will walk again, honey. I promise," whispered Wilma's mom.
Every week, her mom took Wilma to the city for treatment. Every day, her twenty-one brothers and sisters took turns massaging her weak leg. Wilma had to use braces to walk, and the mean kids in her neighborhood would make fun of her. Sometimes, when her parents were not home, she tried to walk without braces. It was hard, but Wilma slowly got stronger.
By the time she was nine, her mom's promise came true. Wilma could walk by herself! She even started playing basketball.
She loved jumping and running, so she did not think twice when her coach asked if she wanted to join the track team.
Wilma competed in twenty races, and won every one of them.
"I don't know why I run so fast," she said. "I just run."
Wilma became the fastest woman in the world, bringing great joy to her family and to her country. She broke three world records at the 1960 Olympics.
Wilma always said that 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."
June 23, 1940 - November 12, 1994
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