Utah teen Jessie Bradley making waves in Olympic weightlifting world

Published: Wednesday, June 4 2014 6:28 a.m. MDT

Jessie Bradley, who is making waves as a crossfit/weightlifing phenom on an international scale, is pictured on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Orem.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

OREM — Jessie Bradley is the type of person who just never quits.

She never quits a workout, she never quits competing, and she never quits challenging herself in new and unexpected ways.

Which is why, last October when the 17-year-old Timpview junior discovered an Olympic weightlifting competition, she jumped at it.

Nine months later, she still hasn't looked back.

Bradley grew up doing CrossFit in the gym part-owned by her dad Tom, who opened the space with friends when they needed an indoor venue to continue their workouts in the winter months. Jessie joined in on the activities at age 13 and, less than a year later, earned her certification to begin teaching the CrossFit classes.

She continued to move up the instructor ladder, earning certification after certification to teach newcomers, kids and Olympic weightlifting sessions. As she was evolving in CrossFit, CrossFit was evolving into a competitive sport, and soon, Bradley wanted to be a part of that too.

"In the beginning, it was more recreational. I came in a couple of times a week," she said. "As I got better at it, I saw, 'Oh, I could do this as a sport.'"

So she competed, and she excelled.

At just 14, she qualified for the CrossFit Utah Valley regional team. A year later, she was invited to the CrossFit Games teen competition and took first place. Last year, she was part of the Utah Valley team that took fifth place in the regional competition.

Following that event, there was a lull in the action, but Bradley is not a person who handles lulls well. Instead, she and her teammates began looking for a new challenge.

"After regionals there was a pretty big gap in our training," she said. "Our training had been high volume so we wanted to switch to something that was also high volume."

The team found a CrossFit program that leaned heavily on Olympic weightlifting, the side of the sport Bradley had always preferred.

"I always loved the heavier lifting side of competitions," she said. "My lungs are not very strong for a CrossFit-er, so I definitely loved it when they came out with a heavier workout. That was something I could excel in."

While focusing on the new program, Jessie's teammates discovered a Utah state weightlifting competition, an event in which they thought she could be a contender.

"Some of the guys were looking up state records," she said. "They said, 'Jessie, you could go to this weightlifting meet and you'd do pretty well.'"

Once again, she found immediate success — and things began to happen fast.

She competed in a national meet in Dallas in December 2013, where she was introduced to the director of USA Weightlifting, who invited her to a development camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, she found a coach, 2000 Olympian Cara Heads Slaughter, who helped her prepare for the junior nationals, where she won a silver medal with lifts of 80 kilograms in snatch and 100 kilograms in clean-and-jerk for a 180-kilogram total, all of which are new Utah state records.

"And all throughout that, I really had no idea what I was doing," said Jessie, an articulate and enthusiastic teen. "It started, 'Let's go to this weightlifting thing' and all of the sudden we're traveling all the time for it. I had to learn really fast."

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