It has been ten years since “The LorettaClaiborne Story” first premiered on ABC and 27 years since Loretta Claiborne herself won her first medal in the Special Olympics world games, but she continues to inspire people everywhere.
On Sunday, BET showed the made-for-TV movie based on Claiborne’s life and many viewers were moved by the hardships she overcame. Twitter lit up with comments from viewers, both male and female, who were overcome with emotion to the point of crying as they watched the movie. It is hard to blame them.
According to the biography posted on Claiborne’s website, she was born to a poor, single-parent home as the middle child out of seven. She was unable to walk or talk until the age of four because of her partial blindness and developmental handicap. However, Claiborne discovered a passion for running, which led her to complete 25 marathons and twice place among the top 100 women in the Boston Marathon.
In 1983, she competed in her first Special Olympics world games and won a gold medal in the mile run. She followed that medal in 1991 with another gold in the 13-mile half marathon and a silver medal in the 5K. In total, Claiborne has won 10 medals at the Special Olympics world games, including two in bowling and one in figure skating.
Claiborne has also earned a black belt in karate and trains in a wide array of sports, such as basketball, soccer, golf, skiing, and swimming. This is in addition to training in running, figure skating, and bowling.
Currently on the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Board of Directors, Claiborne was presented with the Spirit of Special Olympics award in 1981 and state Special Olympics athlete of the year in Pennsylvania in 1988. In 1996, actor Denzel Washington presented Claiborne with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPY Awards. Claiborne is featured in the Women in Sports Hall of Fame and is depicted with Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Claiborne credits everything to sports and the encouragement she has received from others.
“If it weren’t for sports, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I was very angry before and sports was the arena that turned that around for me,” Claiborne said. “I got support from family, community and God — he is the strength of all and can make anything possible.”
BET is scheduled to repeat “The Loretta Claiborne Story” on August 29 at 5 p.m.