Track Runners Who Inspire Track Fans

By Denise Turney

Track runners inspire track fans by refusing to quit in the face of great odds. For example, American track sprinter, Tyson Gay, didn’t make it to the Olympic finals in the 100 meters at the 2008 Olympics. During the four-by 100 meter relay, the men’s American relay team dropped the baton during his exchange. Yet, Tyson Gay didn’t quit. He underwent surgery to repair his hip, and hit the track again. Four years later, at the 2012 Olympics, Tyson Gay got his Olympic medal, and oddly, he got that medal in the four-by-100 meter relay. The fact that he made it to the Olympic finals after recovering from surgery is amazing all by itself.

More Track Runners Who Are Inspiring

Tyson Gay is just one of the track runners who’s inspiring track fans around the world, who’s showing people firsthand what focus, commitment, resilience and hard work can help achieve. Throughout history, track runners have overcome great odds to reach their goals. Wilma Rudolph, born with polio, was one of 22 children. She was also born prematurely. The sprinter from Tennessee who entered this physical world in 1940 appeared to have an uphill climb right from the start. It’s nothing short of a miracle that Wilma Rudolph went on to run at all, let alone win three gold medals and one bronze medal at the Olympics. As a member of Tennessee State University’s Tigerbelles, Wilma Rudolph raced her way into history. Italians nicknamed her “The Black Gazelle.” A stretch of highway in Clarksville, Tennessee is named after her. She was a woman who loved track and field until her passing in 1994. She earned her way into history books and inspired countless track fans and everyday folk along the way.

It’s hard to mention Wilma Rudolph without mentioning Jesse Owens. The two track sprinters may well be the greatest symbols of the sport in the minds of many track fans. Born James Cleveland Owens in Oakville, Alabama on September 12, 1913, Jesse Owens won four gold medals (no easy fete in track and field) at the 1936 Olympics. It would take more than 40 years before another track runner would win four gold medals at an Olympics; that happened in 1984 when Carl Lewis won four gold medals at the Olympics.

Jesse Owens’ wins uprooted Adolph Hitler’s statements about a master race. According to the Official Jesse Owens website, Jesse got his start in track and field while attending school in Cleveland, Ohio (my home state; had to put that in here). Perhaps more than the other track runners mentioned in this blog, it was Jesse Owens who had to race with courage, pride, dignity, passion, resilience and tenacity in ways the other track runners except for Wilma Rudolph (thankfully) have not had to. Jesse had to deal with racial discrimination before and after the Olympics. What he achieved and when he achieved it has set him apart. As with the other track runners mentioned here, Jesse Owens continues to inspire.

There are so many track runners whose exploits on the track and field inspire track fans as well as children, teens and adults who don’t run. To name a few, there’s Edwin Moses (unbeaten in the hurdles during his professional career; oh . . . he’s from Ohio too!), Evelyn Ashford, Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner Kersey, Michael Johnson, Usain Bolt and Jim Thorpe. These track athletes meet their personal and family responsibilities then go on to achieve excellence at their sport. They truly are inspiring.

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