Saturday, 16th February, 2002, which was actually the 17th in Australia.
May we never forget the Men’s Short Track 1000m Final at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, as 4 fools played roller derby with 50 metres to go, and trailing 15 metres behind them to reap the awards was none other than Steven John Bradbury, who strolled across the line to win Australia’s first Winter Olympic Gold Medal, and it shall never ever be topped as our greatest ever Winter Olympic moment.
That final turn is just poetry in slow-motion… it’s like watching the TIE Fighters collide at the end of A New Hope, and out of nowhere comes Bradbury, arms raised in the air amidst a chorus of boos, wondering what the living hell just happened to him.
“I wasn’t the fastest skater on the ice tonight. I was obviously not the most deserving guy. I had a lot of luck on my side…. But I won’t take the race for the 1 minutes it was on. I’ll take it for the 10 years of hard work that I put in. I’ll take it as a reward.” – Steven Bradbury
I’d think most people know about Bradbury’s skating story up to that point – Helping win Australia’s first Winter Olympic medal (Bronze in the 5000m Short track relay) at the Lillehammer Games of 1994, having his right leg gruesomely sliced open and nearly dying at the ’94 World Cup at Montreal, smashing head-first into a barrier and fracturing his neck during training in the year 2000….
But what gets forgotten is that a few hours earlier on February 16, Bradbury was eliminated in the Quarter Finals after finishing 3rd in his heat, only for officials to disqualify world champion Canadian Marc Ganon for blocking/pushing, and in the Semi Final, Bradbury, on advice from his coach Ann Zhang, adopted the fabled ‘Trail last and hope for a crash’ strategy, knowing full well he was slower than his opponents.
It amazingly paid off when defending champion Kim Dong-sung of South Korea, Li Jiajun of China and Mathieu Turcotte of Canada all crashed, allowing Bradbury to win the race and qualify for the Final, alongside Turcotte, who would later take the Bronze in the final.
It truly was one of the greatest triumphs against incalculable odds, and Bradbury’s hero status was sealed for all-time when he entered the Australian vernacular:
Verb: Do/Doing/Pulling a Bradbury, Bradburied.
Definition: To somehow win a contest (Often sporting), mainly thanks to all of your competitors ****ing up.
Example: Scott Morrison Bradburied his way to the Prime Ministership after Peter Dutton unsuccessfully challenged Malcolm Turnbull in 2018.
Another fun fact: Bradbury was the first athlete representing a Southern Hemisphere country to win a Winter Olympic Gold Medal.
Another fun fact: American hero and race favourite Apolo Ohno, who crawled over the line to take Silver, was wearing skates made by Bradbury’s Revolutionary Boot Company.
Bradbury had asked Apolo to give him a mention if he won gold… Turned out Apolo didn’t need to.