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Raising the Roof

Flashback: Wilma Rudolph does it again
By Christopher Ross
ABC Sports Online


In July 1961, the worlds of international sport and politics collided in Moscow's Lenin Stadium for a two-day, USA vs. USSR track and field event on July 15 and 16.

Wilma Rudolph
Wilma Rudolph just prior to leaving for 1961 USA vs. USSR track meet.
In the world of politics, The Cold War was escalating to new heights. In April President Kennedy had recently failed in his attempt to invade Castro's Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. In June, at a summit meeting in Vienna, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, had threatened JFK with a claim that Soviet bloc forces would invade West Berlin at any time. In July, the United States invaded Moscow's Lenin Stadium. The underdog U.S. women's contingent was led by the 21-year-old Clarksville, Tenn. native, Wilma Rudolph.

Born on June 23, 1940, Wilma Rudolph, despite a series of debilitating illnesses that would prevent the average human from even walking during his or her lifetime, would conquer the odds and become one of the most accomplished women in international track and field.

Having competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games, Rudolph was already a seasoned international runner when she qualified for this AAU team. In 1956 she won a bronze medal when she ran the third leg of 4 x 100 relay in Melbourne. The 1960 games saw Rudolph come into her own -- winning gold in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, and in the 4 x 100 meter relay to become the first American woman to win three gold medals during a single Games.

Did you know?
ABC's Wide World of Sports coverage of the USA-USSR Track and Field Meet on July 15-16, 1961, marked the first telecast from Europe handled exclusively by American personnel.

ABC announcer Jim McKay was on hand to participate in history.

Valery Brumel was among the other track stars there in 1961 and he set a new world record in the high jump with a jump of 7 ft.- 4 1/4 inches. In all, six world records were broken in Moscow.

The 1961 USA-USSR meet attracted a crowd of 70,000 and would be the third meeting in as many years for the United States and the USSR outside of the Olympics. The Amateur Athletic Union/USA Track and Field team consisted of 31 men and 17 women.

Each group of athletes, men and women, were scored separately. Each nation had two athletes in each event. The points were scored on 5-3-2-1 basis, with first place receiving five. In the relays, the winning team earned five points and the losing team three.

Rudolph showed the same form which allowed her to dominate the 1960 Olympic Games when she anchored the U.S. 4 x 100 meter relay team. She brought them from behind to win the event in world record time, 44.3 seconds. Rudolph continued to display her running prowess in her individual performance in the 100 meters, by equaling the world record of 11.3 that she shared with two others.

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Rudolph ran and world went wild

Her Roman conquest


 Wilma Rudolph at the 1961 USA-USSR track meet ties her own world record in the 100m.
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 Wilma Rudolph at the 1961 spoke with ABC Sports after her 100m performance in Moscow.
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 Wilma Rudolph anchors the relay team during the 1961 USA vs USSR track meet
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RealVideo: 56.6 | ISDN | T1