A teenager who was bullied as a child took up Taekwondo to fight back – and is now being tipped as a future Olympian.
Katie Bradley, 16, turned to martial arts at the age of seven after she was picked on for being shy and overweight.
Katie, who is just 5ft 2ins, was the victim of a campaign of ”physical and mental” bullying and so started Taekwondo lessons to help defend herself.
But she excelled at the sport and within a year was competing in competitions – and is now a black belt and competing for Great Britain at international level.
She has also been hailed as one of the country’s best young talents by GB Olympic medalist Sarah Stevenson.
Her dad, Andrew, 43, a father-of-three, said Katie’s bullying problems started when the family moved house when she was seven.
Andrew, of Plymouth, Devon, said: “Every time the kids went out to play they would come back within minutes in tears, it was awful.
”They would be beaten physically and abused mentally, they were a target to these kids because they were different, they were well spoken and a bit shy.
”The bullies were loud and swore a lot. They had to spend 95 per cent of the time inside in fear.
”The kids were a bit overweight back then so maybe that is why they went for them, but one day I had enough and thought about self-defence.
“I was looking through the yellow pages and came across the sport, so I rang up and they said they would help, the rest is history, she loved it, took to it like a duck to water.
“She is not that little girl any more, she is very shy still but very much confident and has never had any more problems.”
Katie won her first gold at a competition in Bournemouth, Dorset, aged just eight.
Earlier this month, she thrashed opponents from Germany, Latvia, Austria and Denmark to become gold medallist at the Dutch Open Taekwondo competition.
She trains three times a week with South Hams Taekwondo Club in Plymouth and travels to Manchester most weekends to train with the National Academy.
Her dad added: “I couldn’t be any prouder of her for what she has achieved, she even manages to keep on top of her school work.
“When she competes I am a nervous wreck, I sit there and punch and kick every time she does, and it feels like we both take the hits sometimes.
“She has to potential to go to the Olympic Games one day and I am hoping that she does make it.”
Olympics 2008 GB Taekwondo bronze medallist Sarah Stevenson MBE, who trained with Katie last year, said she is one of the nation’s future stars.
She added: “I have seen Katie grow as an athlete and as a very strong, determined young lady who has dreams and ambitions to represent her country at European, World and one day the Olympic Games.
“Katie is now becoming a role model herself for the younger aspiring athletes behind her.
“She always gives 100 per cent to her sport as well as her school work and is definitely one to watch for the future of GB Taekwondo.”