Road to Rio: Local Paralympic athlete is going for gold

WSVN — She grew up with dreams of being a dancer, but a car accident with a drunk driver took her leg and changed her life forever. But she’s turning her tragedy intro triumph and is going for Olympic gold. 7’s Robbin Simmons has more on her “Road to Rio.”

If there’s one life lesson to learn from Natalie Bieule, it’s to never let anything keep you from what you want.

And what Natalie wants — after taking a bronze medal in discus at last year’s International Paralympic Championship Games in Qatar — is to win a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

Natalie Bieule: “As of right now, I’m currently ranked third in the world, and I hold the American record, so I’m ranked first in the United States.”

All this after only a year and a half in the sport.

Natalie Bieule: “The discus, it was just an instant relationship between me and it.”

Natalie grew up in South Florida. Her dream was to dance, but when she was 18, a car accident with a drunk driver took her leg.

Natalie Bieule: “I was looking forward to a dancing career, but, you know, God had other plans for me, and I think these are better plans.”

Now she’s a wife to husband Matthew, mom to daughters Ava and Valentina, and a world-class athlete, training every day at her Pembroke Pines home, using her experience in CrossFit to build muscle, get stronger.

To throw, over and over, working with Coach Larry Judge via FaceTime all the way from Indiana.

Natalie Bieule: “Hey, coach!”

Coach Larry Judge: “Hey, Natalie. How it’s going?”

From her phone propped on a chair, Coach Judge, a professor of kinesiology at Ball State, watches every move.

Coach Larry Judge: “Nice and easy out of the back. You want to feel that slow-to-fast rhythm.”

Natalie Bieule: “Nice and easy out of the back. Yep.”

He teaches her the choreography of movement and power.

Natalie Bieule: “Discus reminds me of dancing — the twists, the turns, the hips, the leg movements. You need to find that rhythm of the movement. You need to find that music to that throw.”

Her friends, like Paralympic gold medalist April Holmes, encourage her. Kellogg’s, her corporate sponsor, promotes her.

But it’s her family who gives her the inspiration she needs.

Ava: (reading medal) “World Championships.”

Natalie Bieule: “That one’s a really good one.”

Natalie Bieule: “There’s days that it just — it hurts, and I don’t want to get out there. But they’re my purpose. They’re my reason for why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

Natalie Bieule: “You ready for Rio?”

Ava: “Yes.” (Natalie kisses Ava)

And so, Natalie throws, and throws again. The discus soars, along with her hopes of Paralympic gold, on the road to Rio.

Members of Natalie’s family have already booked their tickets so they can cheer her on from the sidelines. The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games begin Sept. 7 and run through the 18th.

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