Loretta Claiborne is a woman who’s been honored many times for her courage and strength, despite the obstacles she’s had in life. The special needs Olympic athlete with challenged motor skills and partial blindness holds the women’s record in her age group for the 5000 meters event. She got her first gold medal in 1983 in the mile run.
Born to a single mother with seven children, Claiborne was raised poor but rich in spirit. As a child, she had to have surgery to help her walk. She used her speed to escape school bullies. That same speed would later take her to the Special Olympic platform with the help of social worker Janet McFarland.
She’s run over 25 marathons, placing among the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon twice. Claiborne is a black belt in karate, speaks four languages and holds honorary doctorate degrees from two colleges. Not only does she hold gold medals in the Special Olympics half marathon and bowling, but she’s been honored by the Women in Sports Hall of Fame, Special Olympics International Hall of Fame and Special Olympics Pennsylvania Hall of Fame.
In 1996, Claiborne was presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, an annual achievement given by ESPN at the ESPY Awards.