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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Female athletes share their stories ahead of Abu Dhabi sports conference

The women will be attending the International Conference of Sports for Women 2017 in Abu Dhabi this week

Special Olympics Athlete and Special Olympics International Board of Directors Loretta Claiborne will be attending the International Conference of Sports for Women 2017 in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Jordan Strauss / WireImage
Special Olympics Athlete and Special Olympics International Board of Directors Loretta Claiborne will be attending the International Conference of Sports for Women 2017 in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Jordan Strauss / WireImage

This week, female athletes will be sharing their stories with the world during a sports conference in the capital.

The International Conference of Sports for Women 2017, by the Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy, will attract an array of athletes to talk about the struggles they faced to reach their goals.

These are three of the women who will be attending the conference:

Loretta Claiborne

Loretta Claiborne was born in Pennsylvania in 1953, partially blind and unable to walk or speak until the age of four.

Despite being pressured to admit her to a mental institution when she was young, Loretta’s mother refused as she believed in her child’s potential.

At school, Loretta would escape the taunts of her classmates by running away. From then on, running became a passion through which she would find her path to global recognition.

In 1971, Claiborne was introduced to Special Olympics, which she described as a turning point in her life. She won her first gold medal in the 1983 World Games and has since won dozens of medals at various events.

She is a seasoned athlete in karate, skiing, skating and basketball and holds the women’s record for the 5,000metre-run in the Special Olympics World Games for her age category while featuring in the top 100 women at the Boston Marathon twice.

Aside from her athletic career, Claiborne is a global spokesperson and a member of the current Board of Directors for the Special Olympics.

She has also received multiple prestigious awards including induction into the World Sport Humanitarian Hall of Fame 2007 and the Women in Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2000, her story was immortalised in the Walt Disney TV film production, The Loretta Claiborne Story.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - - -  24 January 2017 --- Former figure skater Michelle Kwan, elected to the Board of Directors of Special Olympics International, was at the press conference that was held on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, at the IPIC Arena to announce the plans for the Special Olympics World Games, which Abu Dhabi will host in 2019.    (  DELORES JOHNSON / The National  )  
ID: 28498
Reporter:  Melanie Swann
Section: NA *** Local Caption ***  DJ-240117-NA-Special Olympics-28498-018.jpg
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - - - 24 January 2017 --- Former figure skater Michelle Kwan, elected to the Board of Directors of Special Olympics International, was at the press conference that was held on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, at the IPIC Arena to announce the plans for the Special Olympics World Games, which Abu Dhabi will host in 2019. ( DELORES JOHNSON / The National ) ID: 28498 Reporter: Melanie Swann Section: NA *** Local Caption *** DJ-240117-NA-Special Olympics-28498-018.jpg

Michelle Kwan

The most decorated figure skater in American history, Michelle Kwan’s skating expertise and accomplishments have earned her a place among the all-time greats of the sport.

From 1995 to 2005, Michelle dominated the sport, winning 43 championships, including five World Championships, nine US National Championships and two Olympic medals.

In the nearly 100-year history of US figure skating, no American man or woman has won more world titles, national titles or Olympic medals.

In 2003, Michelle earned her seventh US Figure Skating Skater of the Year award.

US Figure Skating renamed the award in her honour, calling it the Michelle Kwan Trophy.

In January 2012, Michelle was inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, the highest honour in US figure skating.

In March that year, she was elected to the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame, the only member of the Class of 2012.

She currently serves as a senior advisor and the first Public Diplomacy Envoy at the US Department of State, traveling the world to meet with young people to speak about leadership and social and educational issues.

In June 2010, President Obama appointed Michelle to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. That year, she was elected to the Board of Directors of Special Olympics International, the organisation’s governing authority responsible for global affairs and strategies.

Zahra Lari is bidding to be the first Emirati to compete at the Winter Olympics. Christopher Pike / The National
Zahra Lari is bidding to be the first Emirati to compete at the Winter Olympics. Christopher Pike / The National

Zahra Lari

Zahra Lahi, 22, is a three-time UAE national figure skating champion and the first Emirati figure skater to compete on the international stage.

At 11 years-old, she was inspired to try figure skating after watching the Disney film ‘Ice Princess’. Two days later, she skated onto the ice rink of Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City for the first time, embarking on what would become her life-long passion.

Despite her father initially encouraging her to keep figure skating as a hobby, Zahra made her international debut three years later at the European Cup in Canazei, Italy.

It was then that she received a deduction in points due to her hijab.

As the first international-level figure skater to compete wearing the hijab, it was left to Zahra to successfully challenge the deduction with the International Skating Union (ISU) who have since allowed headscarves to be worn in competition.

As an athlete sponsored by the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy (FBMA), she now has her sights firmly set on making history by becoming the first Emirati to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games in 2018 in South Korea.