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As a child, I started watching the Olympics on a black-and-white TV in the 1950s. I cheered for each American. I wanted each American to beat every person from Russia (Soviet Union) and the Eastern European Communist Block countries.
At that time, the only sport that I had ever seen a live game or match was a donkey basketball game. I had slid around the ice when it was cold enough for a farm pond to freeze. I wondered how deep was the water under the ice when the pretty girls while skating would fall. I never saw the ice crack when they fell. When sliding around the farm pond, you had to pay close attention to the thickness of the ice and when the ice cracked. When water appeared on top of the ice, you knew something was wrong. I had never seen a building that had an ice floor. A farm pond and Kentucky Lake were my first exposures to swimming or in my situation splashing in the water.
I did not know how much work was involved for a person to be selected to represent a country in the Olympic games. I did not understand what it meant for a person to receive an Olympic Gold metal.
The 1960 Olympic games were different for me. A woman from Clarksville, Tennessee, was a runner on the American Olympic track team. Her name was Wilma Rudolph. Of course I rooted for her too win when she ran a race. The only other well known athlete from Clarksville was Mason Rudolph, a professional golfer. Wilma and Mason were not related. In the fall of 1960, Clarksville hosted a parade for Wilma. The Clarksville schools were closed so the students could attend the parade. Wilma attended Burt High School. I attended Clarksville High School. She had world wide fame. My claim to fame was I was never kicked off the school bus for misbehaving.
In the parade, Wilma was seated on top of the back seat of a convertible car. As she rode by where I stood on the sidewalk, I was puzzled about how could a person from Clarksville be so famous. It is not that I did not have a high opinion of Clarksville, I just could not grasp a person from Clarksville could be an Olympic champion. She was an Olympic champion with three gold metals. A fact that gets lost is she, as a high school student, won a Bronze metal in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. As a child, she had polio which often caused a person to not be able to walk. Her early illness made her accomplishments even more amazing.
For a person to be selected to be on an Olympic team and win a gold metal requires many years of training. The athlete and other people had to commit themselves to investing lots of time, money, effort, and skill to help the athlete.
Dale “The Saint” Lee
A former resident of Pot Neck, Tennessee
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