Stephan Couture and his daughter, Chloe, are raising awareness that severely disabled people can get stuck into sport
Since adopting their daughter Chloe when she was just four years old, Stephan and Di Couture have made it their mission not to let her cerebral palsy stop her from living life to the fullest. In 2011, Stephan and Chloe started taking part in races together and they haven’t looked back – they entered over 70 events in 2018 alone.
“Chloe loves being outdoors whatever the weather,” Stephan told us. “Despite her health issues and disabilities, she lives for racing. She’s my inspiration.”
Over the last few years, Stephan and Chloe have taken part in the Manchester Half Marathon (for the fourth time), Ride London, the UCI Harrogate Sportive and many more high profile events. They were the first disabled team to take part in ITU World Triathlon series, which took them to Leeds, Nottingham, Hamburg and Bermuda as well as completing four para triathlons in one day.
They’ve been capturing the hearts and minds of many fellow athletes on their adventures, and when we met them at the National Running Show in January 2020 we could see why. Stephan told us passionately about their mission to ‘raise awareness for severely disabled people that they can experience the excitement of taking part in events’. This applies to Chloe, of course, but it doesn’t end there for the Couture family.
“We help other families take part in events and all the equipment we use we have funded,” said Stephan. “We get no funding from sports bodies as they say we are too specialised, there are not enough people interested, no high profile races to get media coverage and we don’t win events.”
Stephan was frustrated at the lack of support for teams who simply want to take part, especially as they continue to promote inclusion and diversity in sport.
He was also eager to express the importance of sport in the lives of severely disabled people, having encountered his fair share of naysayers who fail to understand what Chloe and her fellow competitors would get out of the experience.
“How wrong they are! They do get a lot from it – they get the excitement of taking part, the sensory feeling, the stimulation and feeling part of society. It can also help reduce anxiety and depression. Just because they can’t shout about it doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from it.”
Stephan makes sure that safety is his top priority, not just for Chloe’s sake, but to avoid an accident that could cause issues for the event organisers.
“All our kit has been made by companies that specialise in wheelchair manufacturing, so we know they are fit for purpose. I also try to make sure that people are taking part for the right reasons and that the disabled person’s welfare can be met at all times without putting them at risk – they are the competitor and we are just the means for them to take part.”
Stephan and Chloe would love more disabled people to be able to safely take part in sporting events.
“Our dream would be to get more chairs so we could lend them out,” Stephan said. “It’s a wonderful feeling knowing we’ve made a difference in people’s lives.”
Team Ladybugs, as Stephan and Chloe call themselves, are set for another busy year of racing – you can get involved or show your support by contacting them here.