Meet Anne-Laure Coutenceau: Upper Extremity Semifinals Champion
When Anne-Laure Coutenceau discovered CrossFit in 2016, she wasn’t into sports and fitness at all and “had a poor lifestyle,” explained the native of Rennes, France.
Six years later and the 35-year-old became the women’s upper extremity Semifinals champion and is headed to the 2022 NOBULL CrossFit Games for the second straight year.
For Coutenceau, who was born missing her left arm below her elbow, finding CrossFit was love at first WOD.
“I quickly took a liking to it…I discovered abilities that I had not imagined I had. I gained self confidence. I balanced my diet. I put my health at the center of my priorities,” Coutenceau said.
She added: “CrossFit helped me restore my life.”
Coutenceau’s Competitive CrossFit Journey
Two years into CrossFit, Coutenceau competed in her first competition, a local team competition with able-bodied athletes, and became hungry for more.
Shortly after that, she caught wind that there was an adaptive category at Wodapalooza in Miami, FL. She flew to Miami and got injured in the second event, but the experience let her know she wanted to become a competitive CrossFit athlete.
When the pandemic hit, her opportunities to compete slowed to a halt, but Coutenceau got right back at it last year, qualifying to the CrossFit Games and finishing third overall in Madison, a finish she’s hoping to top this season.
Adapting Since Birth
Coutenceau thinks one of her biggest assets in the sport is that she was born missing an arm, so she doesn’t know any other way of life.
“My body and mind have always adapted. It’s easier for me than if it had been an accident,” she said, adding that this doesn’t mean her life has always been easy.
“I had periods, especially during childhood, when I had problems with acceptance of pain,” Coutenceau said. But thanks to a great support network, she said she has usually been able to take the attitude that she doesn’t have more challenges than anyone else.
“The only challenges I have are the ones I set myself. I accept my disability. It is part of me and it built me. Without it I wouldn’t be who I am today,” she said.
Beyond her Disability
Coutenceau’s attitude that she can do anything is one that CrossFit has only enhanced.
“What pushed me to reach this level is that I practice this sport like the able-bodied. I don’t like having to adapt too much. This helps me not to see myself as a disabled person,” she said.
Coutenceau added: “When I started CrossFit, I couldn’t do pull-ups. And then I saw my friend with the same pathology doing butterfly pull-ups. I, therefore, said to myself that it was possible and I started to work.”
Seeing herself this way has rubbed off on others around her, as well.
“My friends very often imagine me with two arms. My coach often tells me, “Do 10 with the right arm, 10 with the left,” she said.
“I love it. It means that I managed to make people forget my disability and that is the best reward.”