Wilma Glodean Rudolph (June 23, 1940 – November 12, 1994) was an American athlete and an Olympic champion. Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games, in 1956 and in 1960.
In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games. A track and field champion, she elevated women’s track to a major presence in the United States. As a member of the black community, she is also regarded as a civil rights and women’s rights pioneer. Along with other 1960 Olympic athletes such as Cassius Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali, Rudolph became an international star due to the first international television coverage of the Olympics that year.
The powerful sprinter emerged from the 1960 Rome Olympics as “The Tornado, the fastest woman on earth”. The Italians nicknamed her La Gazzella Negra (“The Black Gazelle”); to the French she was La Perle Noire (“The Black Pearl”). She is one of the most famous Tennessee State University Tigerbelles, the name of the TSU women’s track and field program.