Sebastien’s Story

By Chris Cooper

In Special Populations

March 18, 2009

PDF Article

Chris Cooper writes about one of his clients, Sebastien Wetzel.

Called ‘Baba’ by his friends, the typical French diminution of his given name, Sebastien has gone from a distracted 12-year-old to a powerhouse athlete in a few short years. He plays football; he plays basketball; he powerlifts. He does CrossFit. And he’s autistic.

Sebastien and I became friends when he started with Catalyst Fitness (our box), here in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, three years ago. Back then, Catalyst was a non-CrossFit personal-training-only facility, set up on the top floor of a dumpy office building, and Sebastien’s verbal skills were limited to one- or two-word questions and requests. “Toilet now” while tugging at my sleeve was a big one. He was also prone to bursting out into laughter, or doing little shrieks as if he were testing his voice, without warning. He was emotionally confused. He’d stop and stare at construction sites when we were on our way to the park to work on balance. Sebastien couldn’t coordinate his feet well enough to use a slide board. He couldn’t focus long enough to answer questions about his pets. He only wanted to talk about toilets.

Today, Sebastien’s a long way from that kid who walked in the Catalyst door three years ago. Now, at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Baba is nearly as wide-shouldered as his CrossFitting father; and he’s 20 pounds heavier than his brother, who’s two years older. In his first powerlifting meet, a push/pull at our monthly Virtualmeet in January, he had a 115-pound bench press and 235-pound deadlift. He’s no longer frightened by fast-moving footballs; he can throw a pattern or receive; he can stick a snatch or survive a closely-judged bench press. He says he’d like to compete in the Special Olympics someday.

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17 Comments on “Sebastien’s Story”


wrote …

Great article Chris! Let a msg on yer wall dude.


wrote …

Fascinating story. It's great to see articles about Crossfit helping people to break down physical barriers in the gym. However, it's on a whole new level when you hear about how it helps people function beyond the gym. Inspiring stuff.


Jeff Martin wrote …

Very nice work Chris. Thank you for sharing.


wrote …

Wonderful story. Just what CF Kids HQ has been talking about. Keep up the good work Baba.


wrote …

A very touching account of some wonderful work by an amazing kid and his dedicated trainer. It is a testimony to how pervasive the CrossFit lifestyle can it can change and shape lives. Makes the heart soar. Thank you for sharing!


wrote …

Outstanding, Chris. Truly moving. Highlight of my day. Thanks so much.



wrote …

Holy cow!! Chris, would you mind if I contacted you to talk with you a bit about this? My son also has autism and he likes some of what I do (does a great impression of my thruster . . . ) and I'm always looking for things that help.



wrote …

Great story. And a little box from the Soo makes it to the mainpage.....


wrote …

Great story. Truly one of the more fascinating Crossfit stories.


wrote …

Great story! Keep up the awesome work you're doing.


wrote …

Awesome story, and thank you very much for sharing. I am considering writing an article about a client I am fortunate enough to train and also train with at times.

I am continually amazed at how people respond to our passion for physical training and education; not only does our teaching CrossFit provide physical fitness, it provides relationship fitness. It just changes lives all the way around towards positive efforts, and I have found few things more rewarding. Anyway, blah, blah, blah; thanks again.


wrote …

Wow! A touching story, a great read. Especially the last part.

Chris, you are incredibly lucky to witness, and be part of a brilliant transformation - incredibly lucky.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about Sebastien in the future!!


wrote …

Great article Chris!


wrote …

Chris, what Bingo and Cyndi said. Thanks for giving this story to us. Paul


wrote …

My older brother is autistic. Wish I could get him to try training with me.

Thank you for this article Chris. You are doing something incredible.


wrote …

When I first started training Crossfit 3 months ago (Jan 09) with Ben the owner of Crossfit Adelaide, he asked me at our intro session why I wanted to train Crossfit, to which I answered " My 6 yr old son Xavier has autism and is extremely strong and I need to keep pace, get and stay strong for as many years as possible, in order to give him a fighting chance".

I can say in all honesty that the gains I have made in such a short period of time leave me in no doubt that I will be able to do exactly what I need to do and more.

Sebastian's story confirms the my own wishes for Xav to grow and develop through training Crossfit as these kids are excetionally strong and inteligent.

Thanks for the inspiration Sebastian and just keep Crossfitting mate!


wrote …

Very nice Chris! You are clearly doing great things that don't end with Sebastian! Keep sharing so we all can learn from your experiences!

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