Autumn Cote, of Bear Valley Springs, has been invited to participate with Team USA in the Women's Armlifting World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia, in May. Cote will be competing in the women's 60 kilogram weight category, the competition's lightest.
At 36, Cote says she has only been bodybuilding for the past four years, and training for the upcoming competition for six months. It all started when she found an old arm wrestling table belonging to her husband, Ray Cote, who has always been a competitive athlete.
"I thought, this is kinda cool," said Autumn. "I tried it, and I was really good at it."
Autumn said she took to arm wrestling really fast. Within three years, she had one national championship and four state titles under her belt in addition to developing three notable wins.
After that, Autumn said she got a little bored with just arm wrestling, so she expanded her attention to include other types of body building, including armlifting.
Said Autumn, "I realized that I was really strong."
When Ray and Autumn first met eight years ago, Autumn weighed 200 pounds. Today, she stands at a lithe 119 pounds.
"Four years ago, Autumn wanted to get healthy, and I supported that," said Ray. "She was looking for something that she could compete in and so she picked arm wrestling. She did so well that the organization invited her to be part of Team USA."
Currently, Autumn ranks 9th in the country for women's arm wrestling and 2nd in the country for women's arm lifting in her weight class.
Asked how she felt after learning she was in the top cut, Autumn said, "Nervous. Scared. It's a lot of pressure because it is an invite only and you want to perform really well."
Autumn said she is extremely proud to be able to go to Russia and represent the United States. If she gets a chance to get up on the stage in St. Petersburg, she plans to carry with her an American flag.
"If I got first, second or third, and I'm on that podium, I'm going to have that American flag held high above my head," she said.
The Cotes, who plan to spend five days in Russia, will have to pay for the trip out of their own pocket. In order to raise money necessary, they have set up a GoFundMe page, Send Autumn to Russia for Armlifting USA. So far, the couple have raised $545 out of $3,000 needed.
Said Autumn, "Hopefully, I will come back with some hardware, medals and goals."
Autumn said she trains four days a week in her home gym for the competition. When she is not training, she is caring for her 6-year-old son, George, who has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism.
"We do everything together," said her husband. "We are never apart. Being with her and knowing what she's been through and had to overcome, is a heck of an accomplishment."
Ray said it's nice to have a woman who can pick up a 300-pound man.
"She's the rock of this house," he said. "To be with a woman who is strong … well, it's amazing. She is always growing and always improving."
Autumn encourages all women to look into body building, if for no other reason than for the enjoyment.
Said Autumn, "I have so much fun, being as small as I am, knowing that I can pick up 300 pounds. I don't look anything like a guy, not even close."
Asked what advice she would give to other women interested in arm wrestling, she said, "Don't be afraid to lift heavy stuff, and don't be afraid to get into these kinds of sports because it's not just for men. You don't have to get all bulked up. You can do what I'm doing and still maintain your femininity."