- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

MIAMI (AP) - Milla Bizzotto remembers watching her father compete in BattleFrog and Spartan obstacle courses. When she learned how to walk, she would wait near the finish line to cross it with him.

The four-foot-tall, 53-pound third grader now crosses the line herself - with her father by her side.

“I don’t want to play video games,” said 9-year-old Milla. “I don’t want to hoverboard. I don’t want to do things to make life easier. I want to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I have one body and it’s all I want and all I love.”

Milla, and her father, 36-year-old Christian, ran side by side at BattleFrog’s first Xtreme 24-hour race at Virginia Key Beach earlier this month. She was the only competitor under 18.

“I’m fearless,” she said. “And knowing I’m inspiring people makes me more fearless. It is hard, but that doesn’t stop me.”

She ran, jumped, climbed, crawled and swam through an eight-kilometer course (roughly five miles) with approximately 25 obstacles. She completed six full laps (about 30 miles) and said the hardest obstacle was the “Platinum Rig,” where athletes swing between ropes, rings and monkey bars without touching the ground. In between, she slept between 2 and 6 a.m.

“I’m so proud of her,” her father said. “She was so amazing the entire race. She is really so relentless and refuses to quit.”

The Doral-based race company bent its rules to allow Milla to compete, as long as Christian stayed next to her at all times.

“This will be a once-in-a lifetime memory that she and her father will share together,” said Ramiro Ortiz, CEO of BattleFrog. “No physical activity is without risk, which is something all our participants understand. In this case, both Milla and her father have trained for the race.”

Since June, Milla, who attends North Beach Elementary in the gifted program, has trained five days a week, three hours at a time. She wakes up early in the morning to do homework and brings assignments with her in the car.

“She’s mentioned the race to me a few times,” said Isabel Burns, Milla’s primary teacher. “She’s a really bubbly girl and seems to be very grounded.”

But, Milla said, she has been bullied by other classmates, something that started in second grade and carried through this year. She said that’s what inspired her to compete.

“People would call me names and say I wasn’t a good player,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I did. I want to set an example and show other kids that they can do or be anything they want.”

To Milla, it’s about accomplishing the impossible. She completed her first BattleFrog in November, when she ran a 15-kilometer course designed for adults.

“She literally murdered it,” her father said. “I was so convinced the race was going to crush her. I wanted to prove to her that it’s tougher than she thought. But when we finished it, all she wanted to do was another lap.”

Milla’s mother, Lara Bizzotto, supports Milla’s competitions as much as Christian, but recognizes they’re extreme.

“Her father is extreme too, though,” said her mother. The couple is divorced. “And Milla loves it. I don’t think you should set limits on people, much less children.”

To keep Milla safe during the race, she needed $1,500 worth of gear, like compression socks, waterproof lights, gloves and hydration packs, which she raised through fundraising website GoFundMe.

“We have a lot of supporters, which is awesome,” her father said. “A bunch of members from the gym were there all day and all night to provide food, water, massages and a place to sleep.”

Athletes competing in any extreme race are prone to injury, and Milla is no different. While practicing an obstacle, Milla jumped off an eight-foot wall and twisted her ankle. But, a few days later, she was back to standing on her hands and leaping through monkey bars.

“I’ve injured myself a lot and I of course don’t want that for her,” he said. “It’s a real possibility, but I try my best to do everything I can to avoid it. But if it happens, I’ll be there to support her.”

Dr. Todd Narson, who specializes in sports medicine and owns Miami Beach Family and Sports Chiropractic Center, has treated Milla for about a year and seen her progress.

“This isn’t where the parent is trying to live vicariously through a child,” he said. “This is all self-motivated. She’s a natural athlete, and she’s doing things that are reasonable for her. If she was in constant pain or shown developmental issues, it would be different. But that’s not the case at all. Christian is also one of the most careful instructors out there. He watches over her every move.”

Christian, a CrossFit coach turned gym owner, runs Focused Movement Academy in Miami Shores, where Milla trains. His gym specializes in training for BattleFrog and Spartan obstacle course races.

“She started training when she was about 7 when I was a CrossFit coach,” Christian said. “It was immediately evident. Not only was she more motivated than the average kid, she was super dedicated.”

Christian trains Milla like any other client.

“People that know me and know her don’t think I’m nuts,” he said. “But people who don’t probably think I am. The thing is, I don’t push her to do anything. If she wanted to play with Barbies, it would be totally cool. All I tell her is that she can do anything she wants.”

“I want to inspire a generation,” adds Milla. “I don’t get bullied anymore. I know how to stand up for myself now. And I love what I do. I want to do it forever.”

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Information from: The Miami Herald, http://www.herald.com

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