Paralympian Natalie Bieule on Building a Life She’s Proud of
Natalie Bieule is known for her quick ascent from newbie adaptive athlete to national discus A-team. But her life hasn’t been as easy as that narrative suggests. It took a lot of willpower to build and live a life she’s proud of.
Bieule (pronounced bee-YOU-leh) was 18 years old when she got into a car accident that led to the amputation of her right leg. She had just graduated from high school, and her sights were set on a future dancing and performing on Broadway.
She remembers regaining her consciousness in the hospital and her mother breaking the news about the amputation. Her response? “That’s fine. We’ll figure it out.”
After the amputation, Bieule faced some challenges, like figuring out what her life will look like. But she got through it. She credits her recovery and success to her strong Cuban mother’s resolve and outlook. Bieule said it helped when her mother never made any excuses for her because of her condition. With that support and environment, Bieule had no other option but to move forward. She said setting goals and looking forward to what’s next kept her going.
Life turned out pretty well for Bieule. She graduated from university with a degree in psychology, became a teacher, gave birth to two daughters, and found Crossfit.
Shortly after having her first child in 2013, Bieule picked up CrossFit. She didn’t want her daughter to see her as someone missing a leg. A year later, Bieule became the first amputee to compete at the Wodapalooza CrossFit Festival in Miami, Florida. She finished in 12th place despite lagging in the running event. Her prosthetic leg bogged her down, which pushed her to upgrade her prosthesis.
She joined the U.S. Paralympic track and field team after meeting five-time Paralympian and gold medalist April Holmes. Although Bieule had never touched a discus in her life, she quickly adjusted to the sport because it reminds her of dancing.
Bieule said she credits the strength she gained through CrossFit. Her training helped her break the national discus record despite picking up the sport only six months before. Bieule set the U.S. record with a throw of 28.96 meters. She won the 2014 national championships in her category.
In 2016, Bieule represented the country at the Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil. Although she initially wanted to dance on Broadway, Bieule is grateful she got to play discus—which is like a dance to her—on the world’s greatest stage.
Currently, her eyes are set on her ultimate CrossFit dream: competing at the CrossFit Games. But right now, she’s happy to see adaptive athletes be a part of the 2021 Open.But Bieule says whether she gets the opportunity to compete at the Games or not, CrossFit will continue to be a part of her life. For Bieule, CrossFit is more than the Games; it’s her therapy and outlet. It’s what she does to remind herself what she’s capable of.