Forsyth County teen David Bradley is now officially the top 15-year-old CrossFit athlete in the world.
After a childhood spent battling bullying and obesity, Bradley transformed his lifestyle and mental outlook through years of hard work and training, and on Sunday, Aug. 4, he took first place in the 14-15-year-old age bracket at the world’s largest CrossFit competition, The Reebok CrossFit Games, in Madison, Wisconsin.
Now days after receiving his medal, the teen says that he still can’t believe that he won.
"It hasn't really sunken in yet, it's just crazy to think of. All of those days in the gym,” he said, the thought trailing off in amazement. “It's just crazy to me."
But the competition wasn’t all smooth running. Bradley said that he immediately had mental and physical challenges to overcome when the competition started on Aug. 2.
In addition to the event’s rigorous exercises, the teen was fighting a cold and wasn’t sure exactly how he would stack up against the other nine athletes in his category.
“I knew what I had to do, but I wasn't really confident. I knew I had to put it all out on the floor once I got out there," he said.
On the second day, Bradley suffered a minor sprained ankle while competing in a "Ruck Bag Run," where athletes run distances while carrying increasing amounts of weight in a backpack.
"There was 30 pounds in the backpack and like each loop you added 10 pounds ... and I was running on the second loop and I twisted my ankle pretty bad and I fell down," he said. "It wasn't the best, I don't think things were stacked against me, but it was definitely a challenge mentally."
With the help of his crew and a chiropractor, Bradley worked himself back into shape for the next day, going on unhindered with a slightly throbbing ankle.
"I was able to finish strong, and it really didn't hinder me," he said. "I just flipped the switch and went for it."
Over the three days, the 10 young athletes competed in the blazing sun, going head to head in a number of different CrossFit exercises like a 15-foot rope climb, bar muscle-ups and 140-pound sandbag carries.
Bradley said the competition was that much harder in the heat. The workout equipment got so hot, organizers gave the competitors gloves “because people were blistering,” he said.
While scores tallied at the end of the competition, the athlete’s phones were taken and they were sequestered in a training area. Bradley says he remembers feeling like things could have gone any number of ways. He knew he would be in the top three, but just wasn’t sure if he had done enough.
“I was nervous, real nervous, because I knew the points were really close, but I wasn't sure exactly how close they were," he said. "They started off with third place and second place, and once I heard second place, I got super emotional. I started to tear up, and it just all hit me. I started to think about where I've come from and my whole journey.”
“It weighed down on me,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, before heading over to their local gym for some training, David’s mom Linda Bradley said that their family and their community is “off the charts” proud of what he has done.
Linda Bradley said that for her, it was a rush to see her son live up to his potential and pull through in such a fierce competition.
“We talk so much about the mental side of things, the mental gain ... But you don't really know if it's all in there until he has to reach deep and get it," she said.
For now, the Bradley family is content with the win. David Bradley said that he’s taken a well-deserved break from training, just a few days or so. But soon he’ll be back at it again, looking for his next challenge in 2020."It’s two months away for the CrossFit opens, that's the beginning of qualifying for the CrossFit games again,” he said. “So it's right around the corner."