Steven Bradbury OAM - Short Track Speed Skating
Stephen Bradbury won Australia's first ever gold medal at a Winter Olympics with his speed skating victory in the 1000 metre short course event at Salt Lake City in 2002. In the ten years prior to his victory Steven had already proved himself to be one of the best performed short track skaters Australia has ever produced.
He was a member of the Australian team that won Australia's first winter Olympic medal, taking Bronze in Lillehammer.as well as finishing in the top ten in the 500m individual event. Steve was a member of the team that won the World Championship relay in 1991 and followed that up with a relay bronze at the 1993 World titles and a silver in the 1994 World Championships.
His victory in Salt Lake City is remembered for the collision which took out the four other competitors on the final bend, allowing Bradbury to sweep through and claim gold at his fourth and final Olympics.
Even this fairly-tale ending was enhanced by the circumstances which saw him make the final. He thought he had been eliminated in a quarter final, only to discover one of the skaters ahead of him had been disqualified. Then in the semi-final a crash by the leaders enabled him to come through second and so earn a place in the final.
Few however, would begrudge him these strokes of luck, for at the 1994 Winter Olympics at Lillehammer, Bradbury himself was twice the victim of similar mishaps -- first in the 1000 metres (for which he was favourite) and again in the semi-final of the 500 metres.
Additionally, the four time Olympian had overcome horrific injuries from two crashes to earn his place in the 2002 team. In 1994 in Montreal another skater's blade had badly sliced his leg (causing the loss of four litres of blood) and in 2000 a training accident had left him with a broken neck.
In the 2002 Winter Olympics he was at 29, the oldest competitor in the field and as he put it himself, aware that four races in four days had left him with "not enough petrol in the tank" to battle it out all the way with the leaders. That enforced tactic meant he was behind and clear of trouble when the other runners fell.
His gold medal win was not entirely fortuitous as many would believe, as Steven knew his limitations and also the unpredicatable nature of short track racing. He saw his victory as reward for not one race, but for a decade of hard slog that has included more than his share of misfortune
The result was an Olympic gold medal to cap a great international career that included gold, silver and bronze medals won with Australian relay reams at Olympic and world championships between 1991 and 1994.
Steven has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport, including launching the Revolutionary Boot company which manufactures and supplies may of the top 50 skaters in the world with custom made boots.