February 19, 2002

How the Tortoise

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While all the North American sports media has abandoned covering the games and buzzed to the skating controversy, Steven Bradbury’s chance rise to triumph slipped under the radar. The short track speed skater, who had been part of Australia’s first ever medal in the Winter Olympics, also got his country its first ever gold medal in the Winter Olympics. He’s that lucky guy bringing up the rear of the men’s 1000 m finals when everyone in front of him went down. Just like dominoes, Li Jaijun, Apolo Ohno, Hyun Soo Ahn, and Matthieu Turcotte hit the ice spinning like tops. Bradbury avoided the mess to glide pass the diving Ohno and sprawling Turcotte with his arms in the air and eyes full of tears.

One might call Bradbury merely the benefactor of a freak collision — but no — this was actually a strategy. One that advanced him into the finals and into first-place on the podium.

“Maybe I’m not the most deserving guy, but I got the gold and I’m stoked about it,” Bradbury told ESPN.com. “I thought maybe two would go down and I’d get the bronze. Then I saw them all go down and, ‘Oh, my God’.”

Bradbury would be the vulture of the speed skating world if he hadn’t surprised himself so much by his success. Who thought that skating slower and being patient would actually pay off? It’s become the modern-day tortoise and hare story.

But does Bradbury really deserve that gold medal? Shouldn’t it go to the fastest skater, not the luckiest one?

Despite his shady racing tactics, it’s hard not to root for the guy. He’s been in three Olympics and medaled three times at the World Championships. And the final career highlight listed on Bradbury’s page on the Olympics’ web site is that he broke his neck in 2000.

Maybe with the new hardware, Bradbury can substitute that nasty injury with a more impressive feat on his resum