A mom on the rise: Natalie Bieule

By Katie Branham | May 08, 2015, 1:36 p.m. (ET)


Natalie Bieule after winning the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field Championships

So much has changed for Natalie Bieule over the course of a year. A new sport, a national title, an American record and a new baby.

Before baby No. 2 arrived, Bieule was enjoying the ride of a lifetime as she found sudden success in the discus. At the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships last June, Bieule won her first national title in the women’s F44 discus.

Bieule’s successful season earned her a spot on the 2015 national team roster and set her on the path to become a hopeful for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Was it not for a chance meeting with three-time Paralympian April Holmes in 2013, Bieule may never have given track and field a shot.

“I first saw Natalie at an amputee convention and noticed her across the room,” Holmes said. “One of the first things that I noticed about her was that she looked young and athletic.

“I called out to Natalie to come over to talk to me, and while she looked surprised, she came over with a smile on her face. It was almost like she was looking for an answer to her questions or a conductor on the road she was traveling. I introduced myself and basically volun-told (volunteer and told) her that she was going to join our team.”

From there, Holmes connected Bieule with U.S. Paralympics track and field high performance director Cathy Sellers, and within a week, Bieule was training with five-time Paralympic legend Scott Danberg.

The first day that Bieule met Danberg, he had her try the shot put, javelin and discus.

“I thought maybe I would like the shot best because I used to play softball in high school, but the minute I felt the technique, it was so different and it just was off,” Bieule said. “Then I tried the javelin, but I didn’t have a running blade and I didn’t know if it would work.

“Then the discus was the third thing we tried. The minute I picked it up, I felt comfortable with it, and on my first throw it flew. Scott said, I think this is it for you.’”

Bieule’s quick mastery of the discus wasn’t a fluke or a stroke of luck. It took determination and sacrifice from Bieule.

After spending three years teaching fourth graders and serving as a cheerleading coach, Bieule decided to step away from the classroom so she could dedicate herself full time to her new sport.

For Bieule, learning the discus has been an exercise in patience.

“Discus requires a lot of patience, and I have very little of that sometimes,” Bieule said. “I think the discus has actually shown me how to channel patience and to be okay with taking time to allow the process to come together.”

But this isn’t the first time that Bieule has thrown herself into mastering a skill.

Bieule grew up as a dancer. She danced jazz, contemporary and for her high school. But when she was hit by a drunk driver on March 8, 2001, Bieule lost her right leg at the age of 18.

 
 Biuele continued to train throughout her pregnancy

“An old prosthetist of mine told me that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to dance again.”

Growing up in a big Hispanic family, Bieule loved salsa dancing at family functions. She prided herself on owning the dance floor with her father and was determined to dance again.

“It was probably about two months before Father’s Day the year after I lost my leg that I was told I couldn’t dance again,” Bieule said. “But I shut myself in my room for a month trying to perfect those movements, and on Father’s Day I asked my dad to dance. We danced the salsa, and he told me I danced better than I ever had before. It was a beautiful day.”

For Bieule, the discus is like a dance, and she wants to take it to the sport’s biggest stage. She not only wants to set the world record in the discus, but she also wants to represent the U.S. at the Paralympic Games.

“I think about Rio every day; it gives me goose bumps,” she said. “My whole family is saving money so they can travel to Rio to support me. It’s just hard to believe it is around the corner, and my hard work could finally pay off.”

Bieule’s older daughter Ava is excited for her mother’s Paralympic journey. Last summer when Bieule asked Ava if she would like her to attend her field trip to the zoo as a chaperone, Ava replied, “No, no, no, you have to practice so you can win more medals.”

While it would be hard to top 2014 after winning her first national title and setting an American record, 2015 is off to an even more exciting start for Bieule.

On March 3, Valentina Marie Bieule was born, expanding the Bieule family to a party of four. After taking a short break from training for the birth of her daughter, Bieule is back with increased motivation.

Life is busy for Bieule as she juggles being a wife, a mom to a 6-year-old and a newborn, along with training, but no one can tell Bieule that she won’t be able to handle the load.

“You tell me I can’t, and I’m not going to stop. You tell me that it’s impossible, and I’m going to prove you wrong.”

This year, Mother’s Day will be extra special for Bieule. She not only has two reasons to celebrate being a mother, but on Saturday she will also return to the throwing ring at the Dixie Games in Tampa, Florida.

“My coach doesn’t waste any time and has been working hard on me,” Bieule said. “I am excited to see what the 2015 season has in store for me. All I can do is give it my all, and that’s what I intend to do.”