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Forsyth County teen battles bullying, obesity to become one of the world’s top CrossFit athletes
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In just a few days, Forsyth County teen David Bradley will travel across the country to compete in the largest CrossFit competition in the world, the Reebok CrossFit Games. Friends and family say that over the last 5 years the teen has gone through a total transformation. - photo by Ben Hendren

If five years ago, you told Forsyth County teen David Bradley that he would someday be competing as one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.

As an overweight kid who faced years of constant bullying about his weight, Bradley says there was a time in his life that he just couldn’t figure out what he was doing wrong or what he could do to make himself better.

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But according to Bradley, all that changed when he was introduced to the world of CrossFit, where he found the support and motivation he needed to become not just a healthier person, but one of the world’s top young athletes to practice the competitive fitness sport.

"It really happened in 2017,” Bradley said on Friday, after a morning training session at CrossFit Breaking Boundaries in Roswell, one of several gyms Bradley’s family frequents.

“I was starting to really hone in on my nutrition, and my sister was already an elite athlete, so I would go to competitions and just watch her,” he said. “In 2017, I was watching her, and I was like, 'Mom, I want to do this, that's my goal.’”

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As a young kid, Forsyth County teen David Bradley struggled with his weight and bullying, now he's one of the world's top CrossFit athletes. - photo by Ben Hendren

Bradley said that after making that decision, he focused his whole attention to becoming fit and getting stronger, losing more than 51 pounds in about a year by tracking his food consumption and training hard.

And as a 14-year-old in 2018, Bradley went back to the same competition his sister, Elizabeth, had previously competed in and won in his division.

"I think that's when he realized he might belong in that group, and that was pretty exciting," Linda Bradley, David’s mom, said on Friday. "Having watched him struggle with his weight and friendships and everything before, watching that transformation and watching his dreams actually come true is very overwhelming for me.”

During a pause in training on Friday, David's coach and trainer, Mitch Beaver, said that in all his years as a coach he’s never seen a kid as gifted at CrossFit as David is.

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"I'm feeling really good, I know I've put in the work,” Forsyth County teen David Bradley said on Friday. - photo by Ben Hendren

What sets the teen apart from others that attempt the workout and fitness philosophy is his work ethic and unwillingness to lose, Beaver said.

"I always say CrossFit is 90% mental,” he said. “You can have the physical tools, you can be as good and talented as you want … but if you are unwilling to work hard and to take advice, it’s not worth anything.”

With a sense of determined irony, Bradley says that he owes that work ethic to the bullies who had so much fun at his expense when he was younger. Their words and actions, he said, are what gave him the determination to grow and do things that made him proud.

"I think being bullied about (being overweight) … really pushed me to lose my weight,” he said. “It was very motivating because I was like, 'I want to show them, I want to prove them wrong.’”

Over the last year, the young teen says that he has pivoted his focus again, training to build up his muscle mass and get stronger ahead of his next big challenge, the Reebok CrossFit Games, the largest CrossFit competition in the world.

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David and Elizabeth Bradley pose for a photo at one of the CrossFit gyms they frequent, CrossFit Breaking Boundaries in Roswell. - photo by Ben Hendren

On Aug. 2, Bradley will take the stage in Madison, Wisc. and face off against nine other boys ages 14-15 from around the world during the competition.

"I'm feeling really good, I know I've put in the work,” Bradley said. “I've got to trust the work I've put in and go out there and do what I've been training for all year."

But no matter what happens at the event, Bradley said that he is proud that he is fit, confident and has a community of supportive people around him.

Finding that support and confidence, he said, is the first step on the road to true change.

"I could place last at the games, and I'd still look back at where I was few years ago – I was obese, I was sitting on my couch gaming – and now I'm here at the CrossFit Games feeling healthier than ever, just proud of myself," he said.