Amber Laurita, a Crossfit adaptive athlete, currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina. She was born in New Jersey but was raised as a military kid in Charleston, South Carolina. Despite being bullied in her younger years, Amber found Crossfit and has competed in Strongman World and won a world title of World’s Strongest Disabled Woman.

Amber was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, a birth defect that left her with fewer fingers on her right hand as well as a smaller right arm and wrist. She said elementary and middle school were rough as she tried to hide her hand. Reading was another way for her to escape the pressures of being bullied.

But in high school, things started to change. Amber’s parents put her in ROTC. She described her reaction, “It was the first time where I experienced being a part of something bigger and it gave me a chance to use my hand in a way I hadn’t before.” Post-college, Amber’s boyfriend encouraged her to join Crossfit to combat being overweight. Thanks to an influential Crossfit coach, Amber found her strength, both mentally and physically. Her coach banned her from saying, “I can’t do that.” She attributes her current success to her first two coaches; they always helped her find a way to make things work, even before adaptive Crossfit was an option.

Another big life change occurred when Amber found Crossroad Adaptive Alliance. After feeling isolated by her unusual hand, Amber discovered a community. The Alliance showed Amber that she was no longer alone. “All of a sudden there were other people who had hands similar to mine, who did the same things. It was freaking amazing!”

Amber wants the world to know, “There’s no such thing as being disabled. We were born differently meaning we do things however we need to in order to live…we adapt, we change, we overcome.” The societal stigma of being disabled won’t stop Amber from doing what she seeks to accomplish. This is where she views her stubborn attitude as a strength.

Mindset is everything for Amber. She admits that she occasionally tells herself she is not good enough. To be competitive, Amber has recognized this is something she has to work on. She said, “You HAVE to believe in yourself in order to do the work. One of the quotes I repeatedly tell myself when training is ‘that’s not heavy.’” Amber continues working on mindset knowing she can accomplish anything.

Through her role as a teacher, Amber found a way to pay positive attitudes forward. One day she was approached by a colleague who wanted to introduce a new student. Upon meeting the student, Amber found that he also had “a lucky fin.” That pivotal moment taught Amber that she could influence young minds to see past individuals’ differences. Her students even began to give encouraging words before her competitions.