It’s 8:30 a.m. in York, Pennsylvania. Loretta Claiborne has already completed her daily jog.
“Five kilometers into the nearby park,” she says. The day before she goes skiing. After the conversation with BamS, you want to go to the gym and play tennis in the afternoon. She stated that she practiced basketball the next day.
Loretta Claiborne is 69 years old.
Loretta’s mother, Rita, fell down a ladder while she was pregnant. Their daughter, the middle of seven children, was born nearly blind and mentally disabled. Thanks to multiple surgeries after she was born, Claiborne was able to see “not very well, but I can see something.” I only learned to walk at the age of four.
Today, Claiborne looks back on the 26 marathons she’s run in her life. Personal best: Three hours, three minutes – Run the 1982 Boston Marathon.
When Claiborne was born, the likes of her were sidelined. school visit? It was not intended for children with disabilities like Loretta was. Her mother did not accept this. “She wanted me to have the same opportunities in life as my siblings.”
The girl, who was a little different from the others, was marginalized and bullied from the start. Claiborne’s reaction to this? power!
“I got frustrated and became aggressive. I was already having issues with my nerves, and I kept getting involved,” she says today. your way out? Sports.
“It saved me,” Claiborne says. And he adds, “No, the Special Olympics saved me. If it hadn’t been for the Special Olympics”—I pause, taking a deep breath—“I would either be in jail or dead by now.”
When she was twelve years old, she discovered running. “I was racing with my brother Hank. It was good for me. I just kept running more and more.” When she was in 10th grade, she participated in a program for people with disabilities: one week at school, one week at work. “The way to work was long, and I had to take the bus. I hated it. Eventually I started walking to work in the morning. And back again in the evening.”
One day, the program supervisor hands Claiborne a Special Olympics flyer. “But I couldn’t read,” she recalls. “He told me to show it to my mother at home.”
She was skeptical at first – mainly because of concerns about the potential costs to the desperately poor family. “I also thought it wasn’t me. I thought I was worth nothing and I would immediately get in a fight again,” Claiborne says. Then a coach at the Special Olympics camp gave her good advice at the time: “Loretta, always stop using your fists. You better use your feet, you can do a lot with them.” He was right.
Claiborne has competed in the Special Olympics since 1970. She has won six World Games gold medals for people with intellectual disabilities: four in running and two in bowling. She even participated in the 2005 Nagano Winter Games – in figure skating. I finished second.
In 2000, even the Disney set filmed her life. Title: “Loretta – Triumph of the Will.” Today she is the first and only person with an intellectual disability to serve on the Board of Directors of Special Olympics World. She is Vice President and Chief Inspiration Officer. This week, she was named one of USA Today’s “Women of the Year.” Claiborne: “The award is a great honor. I dedicate it to all the women who have helped me see my strengths. I hope this is a sign to many young girls who, like me at the time, don’t believe in themselves.”
The next World Games will be held in Berlin from June 17-25. Loretta Claiborne is engaged again. “This time I’m competing in tennis,” she says.
Why tennis? It’s just fun for her. “Of course, I would be happy to win another medal, but first of all I want to show my best in tennis. And I’m really looking forward to Germany. So far I only know Frankfurt Airport.
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