BORN OCTOBER 14TH 1973, in Camden New South Wales, his father was the Australian Speed Skating Champion. Affiliated with the Roos Speed Skating Club in Brisbane, he was a skater in Australia’s short-track relay team that won the World Championship in Sydney in 1991 when he was 17, the first world title won by Australia in a major winter sport.
Subsequently selected for the Olympics in Albertville in 1992, he was eliminated in the semi-finals. Two years later, in Lillehammer, he was considered a medal contender in the individual events, but he was hampered by crashing opponents and did not reach a final. However, he did win Australia’s first ever winter medal — a bronze in the 5000m relay.
A year later, he was involved in the first of two career-threatening accidents. In a crash in Montreal a rival’s skates sliced through his right thigh, requiring 111 stitches and 18 months recovery time. In 2000, in Sydney, he crashed into a barrier during training and broke his neck; he was told he would never skate again. He had been among the world’s best 8 years prior, but he was considered in the twilight of his career by the time he made it through to the Salt Lake City 1000m final. Strategically factoring the likelihood of an accident, he skated behind the front runners and the plan paid off. His four rivals all collided and he skated alone past the finish line to be dubbed “the Accidental Hero”.
The win left him with conflicting emotions, but he eventually accepted it as a reward for 12 long years of toil. It was the first ever gold medal won by an Australian at the Winter Olympics, and also the end of a career which had embraced four Olympics, an earlier bronze medal, much sacrifice, and some horrific injuries. "Obviously I wasn't the fastest skater. I don't think I'll take the medal as the minute-and-a-half of the race I actually won. I'll take it as the last decade of the hard slog I put in."
After the Games he began a career as a motivational speaker and a television commentator for Australia at the 2006 Winter Olympics. He published his autobiography, Last Man Standing, in 2005. "Doing a Bradbury" has entered the Australian lexicon as the epitome of an unlikely success against all odds. In 2002, he was awarded the Don Award by Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Named after Sir Donald Bradman, it recognises the sporting achievement of the year which has inspired the people of Australia. In 2007, he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his Olympic gold medal win and inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. In 2017, he was a Director of the Olympic Winter Institute.
Steven Bradbury, Olympic Men's Speed Skating, 1994-2002
|5,000 m relay||3||1994||Lillehammer|
|5,000 m relay||8||1998||Nagano|
|500 m||14||43.225||2002||Salt Lake City|
|1,000 m||1||1:29.109||2002||Salt Lake City|
|1,500 m||10||2:22.632||2002||Salt Lake City|
|5,000 m relay||6||2002||Salt Lake City|
|Source: Sports Reference|
1. The events of Salt Lake City are the stuff of Australian legend. Bradbury, by then considered in the twilight of his career, qualified simply enough from his heat but finished third in the quarter-final and would have been eliminated if Marc Gagnon of Canada had not been disqualified. In his semi-final he was in a poor position and due for elimination but a collision between skaters from Korea and Japan gave him the opportunity to win the race. What had taken place in the heats, unlikely as it was, paled in comparison with the final. In a five man final Bradbury was tailed off in last position throughout the race as the other four battled for the title. As they approached the last turn Li Jiajun and Apolo Anton Ohno clashed and in the resulting melee all four men found themselves sliding out of control towards the barriers. By the time Bradbury arrived the path was clear and he crossed the line to win the gold medal before anybody else could react. Bradbury also competed in three other events in Salt Lake City and reached the B final in the 1500m. — Sports Reference LLC.
2. Geoff Henke on the 1994 short track relay: "I understood short track speed skating because as a hockey player there are times when we had to compete against NSW because they weren't separate as they are now... and it's a very risky business, going round the corners, you can get a little nudge and you're gone ... so I said to the boys... you've got to stand up, take no risks, I want a medal. The boys adhered to that, Steven agreed with me and we won the bronze." Then at the Salt Lake Games: "I couldn't believe my eyes when Steven won that. He deserved to win it, make no error, people don't realise that Steven, he made the final, so therefore, you know, he's in the first 6 in the world. He'd made finals before, his ranking has always been in there, so... it's like in Alpine Skiing, if you make the first seed, anyone in the first 15 can win." — Geoff Henke interviewed by Bob Stewart for the Sport oral history project [sound recording], Sydney, May 6 2008.
Ross Carpenter, 'Bradbury, Steven John (1973 - )', Legends of Australian Ice, Melbourne, Australia, http://icelegendsaustralia.com/legends-2/bio-bradbury.html, accessed online .
1. Australian Ice Racing (AIR) Roll of Honour
2. Pssst all summer, Paul Daffey, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 23 2014.
3. Last Man Standing, Steven Bradbury, 2005. Biography.