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March 15, 2000|LARRY STEWART

What: "Wilma"

Where: ESPN Classic, Sunday,

6 p.m.

Commemorating Wilma Rudolph's triple gold medal-winning performance at the 1960 Rome Olympics, ESPN Classic will show this 1977 TV movie. It was written, produced and directed by Bud Greenspan and his late wife, Cappy, which should tell you something about its quality.

Shirley Jo Finney, a Southern Californian who got a master's degree from UCLA, played Wilma, Cicely Tyson her mother. Denzel Washington, in his movie debut, played Robert Eldridge, Wilma's boyfriend and subsequent husband.

The movie tells of Rudolph's childhood bouts with polio and double pneumonia. She lost the use of her left leg and relied on a leg brace until she was 9. Her story is also one of a trail blazer for African American athletes.

After the movie, at 8, ESPN will replay the Wilma Rudolph segment of the outstanding ESPN "SportsCentury" series, honoring her as the 41st-best North American athlete of the 20th century.

There will be another half-hour profile of Rudolph at 8:30, a "The Way It Was" segment on the 1960 Olympics that features Rudolph at 9, and another Greenspan special, "Reflections in Gold: the Women," also featuring Mary Lou Retton and Wyomia Tyus, at 9:30.

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