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A Gold Medal in Positive Thinking

How Olympic Champion runner Wilma Rudolph used faith and positive thinking to win the race

Norman Vincent Peale

Let me tell you about a little girl named Wilma Rudolph. Wilma was born in the back woods of Tennessee in a shack to very poor people. She was a premature baby born at four and a half months and very frail. It was doubtful as to her longevity. 

When she was four years old, she had double pneumonia and scarlet fever, a combination that left her with a paralyzed and useless left leg. As a result, she had to wear an iron brace and was told by a doctor that she would never walk normally. 

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Fortunately for little Wilma, she had a mother who instilled in her that despite her leg, she could do whatever she wanted to do with her life. And, she told her that all she needed to do was to have faith, persistence, courage and an indomitable spirit. 

So, at nine years of age, Wilma took away the brace and took a step that the doctor told her she never could take. In four years time, she had developed a rhythmic stride, which was a wonder medically. 

Then, Wilma got the notion—the incredible notion—that she would like to be the world’s greatest woman runner. Seems like an impossibility for a person who once had a paralyzed leg, but Wilma was determined. So, at 13, in high school, she entered a race. She came in last—way, way last. 

She entered every race they had, and every race she came in last. And, they begged her in the name of pity to quit it. But, one day, she came in next to last. And there came a day when she won the race, and from then on, she won every race that she ran. 

Then she went to Tennessee State University, where she met a coach named Ed Temple. And, Ed Temple saw the indomitable spirit of this girl—that she was a believer and that she had great natural talent. And he trained her so well that she went to the Olympic Games along with Mr. Temple. 

And, there, she was pitted against the greatest woman runner of those times, a German girl named Yetta Heine. Nobody had ever beat Yetta Heine. But, in the 100 meter, little Wilma beat her; and again in the 200 meter. Now she had two gold medals. 

But, when they handed the baton to Wilma, in her excitement, she dropped it, to see Yetta taking off down the track. It was impossible that anybody could catch this fleet and nimble girl, but Wilma did. And, she had now three gold medals.

How did she do it? She wanted to. And you will never become what you want to be, unless you want to. And, second, she knew what she wanted to become, and you’ll never in the world become what you want to be unless you know what you want to be. And, in the third place, she was a reader of the Bible and a follower of the one who said, “Nothing is impossible, if you have faith.”

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