George Bradley refused to take no for an answer.
Instead of letting his physical limitations stop his competitive drive — which others wanted him to do — he found a life-long competitive outlet and place for fellowship as a young man in weightlifting. Now 60 years old, Bradley is lifting with some of the best.
Starting Saturday, Bradley and many of his teammates with the Gainesville-based Georgia IronDawgs will host the American Powerlifting Committee Nationals at the Iron Beast Gym in Gainesville.
It is through sheer determination that Bradley, who has lived in Gainesville for almost four decades, has become ingrained in the local weightlifting community.
As a kid growing up in Hartwell, Bradley was told his cerebral palsy — which caused his right leg to be about 2 1/2 inches shorter than his left — would keep him from being able to take part in physical education classes. That’s when Bradley made it a personal mission to be cleared to take part in the same course as the rest of his classmates.
After being told he wouldn’t be allowed in the physical education classes, Bradley made a trip to the principal’s office to voice his displeasure.
Bradley’s timing in building up his confidence and marching down to the principal’s office couldn’t have happened at a better time.
“While I was talking to the principal about it, the football coach just happened to be in the office,” said Bradley. “He spoke up and said that he would take me into his class.”
That’s where his love for pumping iron started.
It has escalated in the four decades since first giving it a crack at Hart County High. Cerebral palsy doesn’t give Bradley any struggles in his everyday life. Bradley’s worked the past 10 years at XPO Logistics.
Bradley also said he never complains about being born with cerebral palsy.
He only laughs and says, “I just walk different.”
It also doesn’t give him any trouble when he’s lifting. His only accommodation different from other lifters is a stack of weights at his foot for the purpose of balancing.
Bradley started lifting competitively when he moved to Gainesville in 1978. Gainesville High was holding a bench press meet that caught his interest. Bradley said he’s been hooked ever since.
Bradley’s son, Griffin, said his father always has a smile on his face.
“It’s pretty amazing considering the circumstances,” Griffin said. “I don’t look at him as disabled.
He’s perfectly capable.”
Bradley currently holds three APC national-equipped bench press records. In the Men’s Open Division, 132-pound weight class, he holds a 237-pound record. In the Men’s Master Division, ages 50-54, 149-pound weight class, Bradley holds a 226-pound record. This year, he set the same record again, but in the 60-64 age group.
Everyone associated with the Iron Beast knows Bradley for his positive attitude.
Marcell Allen, who is co-owner of the Iron Beast with Stephanie Williams, says that kind of attitude and lifestyle simply shows the kind of character Bradley possesses.
“I’ve met a lot of people in the fitness industry,” Allen said. “Still, I haven’t met anybody like George.”
Even in a meet, Bradley’s competition is cheering for him, knowing the long hours he puts into staying strong.
“He’s just that kind of guy,” Georgia IronDawgs captain Garry Glenn said. “I don’t know if he ever met a man he didn’t like, and I don’t know if anybody has ever met George that doesn’t like him.”
Bradley is humble. He’s modest. He doesn’t like the attention. He just wants to lift.
And Bradley will be right at home lifting at the Iron Beast this weekend.
As you walk into the gym, just off Main Street, beside the old Hall County jail, you immediately realize it’s not a normal gym. You won’t find bright lights with colorful walls and equipment set up in nice, neat rows.
What you will see, from the outside, is what looks like an old warehouse. As you walk in, there’s weights to your left, more weight racks straight ahead and a boxing ring to your right. The overhead roll-up doors are open and loud music escapes through them.
Bradley is part of the family of lifters at the Iron Beast.
“The whole dynamic of this gym has changed, and George is one of the original group of people that stayed with us,” Williams said. “He’s still here when a lot of our original people have moved on. So that, to me, it says a lot.”
One number sticks out for Bradley on the bench press.
“I’ve always had the goal of 300 pounds, but I haven’t gotten there yet,” Bradley said. “It’s not that much. There’s a lot of people a lot stronger than me.”
Despite his modesty, he can’t hide his character, and that’s what everyone loves about him most. They see a man with cerebral palsy, not letting anything get in his way by lifting weights, doing it well and doing it all with a positive attitude.
“When I see him lift, it shuts everybody else up,” Allen said. “The old saying with lifting is, ‘Put up or shut up.’ George is that individual. He puts up every time. Every single time.”