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Loretta Claiborne - Special Olympics Athlete, World-class runner and motivational speaker.

Loretta Claiborne - Special Olympics Athlete, World-class runner and motivational speaker.

Loretta was one of 9 children, and lived with her single mum and siblings. Loretta was born partially blind and intellectually challenged, she was unable to walk or talk until the age four. Through the support and commitment of her mum, Loretta eventually began to speak, walk and soon started to follow her big brother into running.

After being introduced to the Special Olympics her life started to change. She introduced President Bill Clinton at the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games has won multiple medals in dozens of its events, and also holds the current women's record in her age group for the 5000 meters at seventeen minutes.

Loretta has also crossed the finish line of twenty-six marathons, twice placing among the top one-hundred women in the Boston Marathon. Loretta holds a 4th-degree black belt in karate, communicates in four languages, including American Sign Language, and holds three honorary doctorate degrees from Quinnipiac University, Villanova University, and York College of Pennsylvania, making her the first person with an intellectual disability known to receive such honours, according to Special Olympics Incorporated.

Today, Loretta is a celebrated athlete who was honoured in 1996 with ESPN's ESPY Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Her life story was told in Walt Disney Productions The Loretta Claiborne Story and in the biography, "In Her Stride" published by WorldScapes.

Loretta at 67 years young, still runs every day, and is very active in her community. Her motto for life is, “God is my strength, Special Olympics is my joy”.

Listen to Loretta on the Tough Girl Podcast. New episodes every Tuesday and Thursday at 7am UK time - Make sure you hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss out.

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Show notes

  • Who is Loretta

  • Growing up in the 1950s

  • Dealing with discrimination all her life

  • Her strong and powerful mother who had big dreams for Loretta

  • Making the transition from school to work

  • Looking after her mother when she got sick

  • Moving into her first apartment

  • Advice from her mother

  • Finding out about the Special Olympics

  • Not being allowed to quit the Special Olympics

  • Starting going running with her brother

  • Getting into road racing in the late 70s and early 80s

  • Running in the Boston Marathon

  • Being told she was too good to compete in the Special Olympics as a runner

  • Starting martial arts and self training

  • Not being able to go to the gym because of Covid

  • Book - In her Stride

  • Having a film made about her life

  • Dealing with anger

  • Turning her anger into a positive

  • Learning to control her anger through martial arts

  • Deciding to learn sign language

  • Loving sports

  • 2 mottos that Loretta lives her life by

  • The joy in her life

  • Being the Chief Inspiration Officer for the Special Olympics

  • Women who have inspired Loretta

  • Having good people in her life

  • Quick Fire Questions

  • Final words of advice


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