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Loretta Claiborne is an African-American global speaker who competes in the Special Olympics. She has been honored with the 1996 Arthur Ashe ESPY Courage Award presented to her by Denzel Washington. Claiborne was the first Special Olympics athlete elected to the Special Olympics International Board of Directors.

Claiborne was born partially blind and was unable to talk or walk until the age of four. She has completed over 25 marathons and has placed in the top 100 women finishers of the Boston Marathon twice. In 2000 Claiborne's life was the subject of "The Loretta Claiborne Story", a made for TV movie.

Loretta Claiborne competed in 6 Special Olympics world games.
  • In the 1983 world games, she won a gold medal in the mile run.
  • In the 1991 world games, Loretta won a gold medal in the 13-mile half marathon, and the silver medal in the 5k run.
  • In the 1995 world games, she won 2 gold medals in singles bowling and in mixed double bowling.
  • In 1999, Loretta won a gold medal in the 13 mile run, and the silver medal in the 3k run.
  • In 2003, she won the gold medal in the 3k run, and the bronze medal in the mile run.
  • In 2005, Loretta won the silver medal in figure skating at the winter world games.

She is also a karate black belt, has been in competing in the Special Olympics since 1970, and continues to train in running, figure skating, soccer, skiing, golf, basketball, softball, swimming, and bowling. Loretta was the 1981 Spirit of Special Olympics award recipient, and the 1988 state athlete of the year. She in on the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Board of Directors, and in 2007 returned to the Special Olympics International Board of Directors.

On 9 May 2009, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallerymarker in Washington, D.C., unveiled a historic portrait of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the first portrait the Gallery has ever commissioned of an individual who had not served as a U.S. President or First Lady. The portrait of Mrs. Shriver depicts her with four Special Olympics athletes, including Loretta Claiborne, and one Best Buddies participant and was painted by David Lenz, the winner of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in 2006. As part of the Portrait Competition prize, the National Portrait Gallery commissions a work from the winning artist to depict a living subject for the collection. Lenz, whose son, Sam, has Down syndrome and is an enthusiastic Special Olympics athlete, was inspired by Mrs. Shriver’s dedication to working with people with intellectual disabilities.


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