Bradbury’s lingering gold medal regret
SIXTEEN years later and Steven Bradbury's miraculous gold medal win remains entrenched in Australian Olympic folklore.
His victory in the 1000m short track individual event at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City has ensured Bradbury will live the rest of his life as a household name Down Under.
Coming last and trailing the four other racers by about 20m when they went down like Dominoes, Bradbury skirted around the bend and crossed the line first, raising his arms in disbelief.
But while the iconic moment made him an Australian hero, Bradbury still has regrets over how the medal ceremony went down. Writing a first person piece for Players Voice, he revealed he wished he'd never stood on the podium and instead would have preferred to have been given his bling out of sight of the thousands of fans in attendance.
"I wasn't sure if I wanted to accept the gold medal under those circumstances," Bradbury wrote. "At the time, going out there and standing up on top of the podium just didn't feel right.
"I've watched that medal ceremony many times, and I just looked 100 per cent apologetic more than anything up there on the podium. I think if I was to do it again today, I'd go out there and I'd accept the gold medal but I wouldn't stand up on the top of the podium. I'd just make the guy come around to the side and put it on me and stay off the podium.
"But back then, after I had a few quiet moments to myself, I decided I'd take the medal, not for that race itself, but for the 14 years of hard work in the lead-up to that race. I guess really, there was no choice, there was nowhere else to go. I was going out there to accept it.
"It just didn't sit comfortably with me at that point, and if you see me at the medal ceremony, you can see that."
But, as he has said previously, that unease washed away when the Australian anthem started playing and he saw the Aussie flag ascend.
"All of those feelings were pretty quickly diminished when they started to play the Aussie national anthem, and there were 16,000 people in that stadium," Bradbury wrote.
"For me, it didn't feel like there was anybody else there, and that was when I was really able to enjoy the gold medal for the first time."
Ironically, Bradbury benefited from the same fate which cruelled his chances of medalling in the individual event at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
"I was actually the favourite for the individual event back in 1994 when we got the bronze as a team, but I was taken out by another skater in the first round of the competition and was left sitting there on the ice thinking, 'This is bulls***,'" Bradbury wrote.
As he said, Bradbury justifies his medal by viewing it not as the result of one race in Salt Lake City, but as a reward for the years of toil he spent perfecting his craft. While he would have preferred to win in traditional fashion, he believes he got what was owed to him.
"I would obviously have preferred to have won when I was the best in the world, but that's not the way it turned out," Bradbury wrote.
"Would I be as well remembered if I'd won in 1994? Probably not. Either way, it still would have been the first Winter Olympics gold medal for the southern hemisphere, so it would have been a difficult one to forget. But it's hard to say how my life would have panned out if I'd won in the traditional way.
"Before Salt Lake, I felt I'd been screwed over in previous Olympics and some of that was my fault, some of that was other people's faults and in some ways things just didn't work out.
"Do I believe that if you do right by others, if you work hard really hard at what you do, then karma comes into play at some point? Yeah, I do."