DALE Bryce had many dark moments during a journey riddled with injuries and setbacks.
His efforts at the weekend's ICN [I Compete Naturally] NSW State Titles, where he won one gold and two bronze medals, is a testament to his dedication and resilience.
Bryce competes in the men's fitness section in the 35 plus, 40s, and opens bodybuilding sections.
He was determined to do well at the NSW State titles, driven by his competitive nature and desire to do well.
"This [getting to this point in his sporting career] did not happen overnight," he said.
It took a total of four hips replacements, pain, dedication and good old fashioned hard work.
Looking at Bryce now it's hard to believe that seven years ago, when his battle with health issues started, that his elite sporting career was possibly over.
Bryce is well known around the South Coast for his Taekwondo efforts, which among many highlights included winning four gold and one silver medal at the Pan Pacific Masters Games in 2012.
Seven years ago he was getting to compete in nationals for Taekwondo and then his hips started to give him some grief.
However, he was not prepared for what he was about to be told.
"I was told my hips were pretty much buggered and I had hips like a 90-year-old because of osteoarthritis," he said.
He went to see a leading surgeon and had both hips replaced.
Unfortunately, his new metal hips would only last 12 months.
The metal was reacting badly in his body.
"I used to squeak when I walked and I was told the hips had to come out - now", he said.
"Having both hips replaced not once but twice in my early 30's and the medical issues that followed was a tough pill to swallow. Having elite sport taken away from me in my prime was one of the hardest things any athlete can ever experience, " he reflected after the recent state titles.
"The emotional rollercoaster and mental anguish that followed has been heart-wrenching to say the least."
Dale, at one stage, was told his sporting career was over.
There were "days of darkness" but he never gave up.
"It was tough but I thought I had to do something," he said.
With his second lot hips in place Dale wanted to build up some muscle and made a return to the gym.
Good fortune came Bryce's way when he met coach Keith Graham of Campaign Fitness.
"Keith is the one person that I have to credit for completely turning my life around. Not only has he gotten me to a competitive level on the fitness circuit, he has resparked something inside me I haven't felt for a very long time," Dale said.
The nationals will be held on December 6 in Adelaide.
One thing is for sure - Bryce will be doing everything in his power to succeed at the nationals.
It will be his nationals debut.
He also reopened the Eclipse Taekwondo Martial Arts School earlier in 2020 after it had been closed for a few years.
Time spent working in the martial arts school, regular cardio workouts and of course sweating out in the gym will have Dale primed for the nationals.
Bryce hopes the rest of the body holds out.
"My knees are okay so far but I've had about six to seven knee surgeries over the years with torn cartilage. So I need to look after them, hence the development of muscle to help support everything," he said.