Steven Bradbury: An Unlikely Gold Medalist

The Winter Olympics are a celebrated symbol of global unity that has been taking place for almost 100 years. When politics and differences in opinion divide the globe, sports are what bring everyone back together. However, the stories that the Winter Olympics bring about are not always the revered legends that some may think of when confronted with the idea. In fact, the story of Australia’s first gold medal is far from the debut of pure talent that would be expected during the games.


Australia is not generally known for its winter weather, so it is not necessarily surprising that the first gold medal that an Australian Winter Olympics athlete won was in 2002; what is surprising is how he managed to win it. 


In the midst of Wu Dajing and Shim Suk-hee (who both set world records for skating), Steven Bradbury did not stick out. Though he had decent placing in both the 1994 and 1998 games, he was severely injured both years. In 1994, when competing in Montreal, his leg was sliced open by a sharp skate and he lost a life-threatening amount of blood. He needed 111 stitches and it was over a year before he recovered. Then in 1998, he broke his neck in a training accident, and doctors said that he would not be able to skate anymore. However, he was determined to make it to the 2002 Olympics, even if he would not be among the top contenders. 


Bradbury’s strategy going into the 1000 meter event was to skate behind his opponents, relying more on his short-term endurance and luck rather than speed. Generally, the 1000 meter is a fast-paced event that requires quick skating and agility in order to win. For spectators, this means that the outcome is hard to predict and exciting to follow. 


Bradbury’s method paid off when in the finals, the four other skaters wiped out in the final stretch, with the two in the lead colliding and taking out the two behind them. In the end, the judges did not call for a re-race, which allowed Australia to win the gold medal in the Winter Olympics for the first time. 


As the Winter Olympics approaches once more after a year’s delay, the world awaits the outcome of the games. Who will win a gold medal, and will there be any athletes who live up to Bradbury’s example and surprise the viewers and judges alike? Only time will tell.