Loretta Claiborne was born in Pennsylvania in 1953, partially blind and unable to walk or speak until the age of four. Despite being pressured to admit a young Loretta to a mental institution, Loretta’s mother refused to bow down, believing in her child’s potential. At school, Loretta would escape the taunts of her classmates by running away. From then on, running became a passion through which she would find her path to global recognition.
In 1971, Claiborne was introduced to Special Olympics, which she described as a “turning point” in her life. She won her first gold medal in the 1983 World Games, and has since won dozens of medals at various events, and is a seasoned athlete in karate, skiing, skating, and basketball. She holds the women’s record for the 5,000m run in the Special Olympics World Games for her age category and has featured in the top 100 women at the Boston Marathon twice.
Aside from her athletic career, Claiborne is a global spokesperson and a member of the current Board of Directors for the Special Olympics. She has also been the recipient of multiple prestigious awards including induction into the World Sport Humanitarian Hall of Fame 2007 and the Women in Sports Hall of Fame (2000). In 2000, her story was immortalized in the Walt Disney TV film production, The Loretta Claiborne Story.