Australia And Winter Olympic Gold

Posted on Sat 02/13/2010 by


Australia, as a small Country with a population of only 22 million has consistently punched well above its weight in World sport, evidenced by its standing in the overall Olympic winners of medals where it stands 8th on the overall count and 7th in the Gold medal count. However, when it comes to the Winter Olympics, we rank quite low in the medal count, mainly because here in Oz, it is a really hot Country, so there is a distinct lack of facilities, and especially, venues where those Winter sports can take place.

Even though Australia has competed in 16 Winter Games, it took until the 15th of those Games, the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City for Australia to win its first gold medal, and we have only won three Golds in total.

This short video is of that first Gold Medal, and the video takes some very careful explanation for American audiences not quite attuned to Australian Humour, and a detailed explanation is below the video.

This video was posted to You Tube by mattOthecat

(See comment at the end of this post)

The first explanation is the two guys at the start, Roy and HG. They are known as Rampaging Roy Slaven (on the left) and HG Nelson. That is not their real names. These two guys are literally legends of Australian sports media broadcasting.

They started out commentating in the mid 80’s on the Rugby football here in Australia, (both codes) and the technique they use is to parody the sport, and make it as humourous as is possible. They had been doing this on radio for many years before they decided to take the concept to TV. It translated quite well, mainly because of the Australian way to accept ‘larrikin’ humour, and they had numerous hit TV shows with the concept. They were approached by one of the Major Commercial Networks to come up with a concept for a late night variety show centred around the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, which in actual fact proved to be one of the most watched broadcasts for the whole of the Olympic Games, and overseas athletes especially wanted to be part of the show, because of the way they took humour and translated it to Sport. The show was actually a huge hit in the UK, as well as in Europe, and also in some places of the U.S.  They took the same format to Salt Lake City, where again the show proved immensely popular, both here in Australia, and also again in other Countries. Their brand of typical Australian humour is sometimes a little puzzling, but the duo have kept it Australian by nature, and even though there have been some puzzled faces from non Australian guests, it has always proved very funny. In fact some people who have never watched Sports of any sort specifically tuned into this show, because it was just great entertainment.

Steven Bradbury wins Gold

Now, the athlete in question. His name is Steven Bradbury. He first competed at a Winter Olympic Games in 1992 at Albertville, where he was part of the short track speed skating four man team, which at that time was in fact World Champions at the event. In 1994, at Lillehammer, he was again part of the four man team in the same event and this time they won a Bronze Medal, Australia’s first Winter Olympic Medal. He represented Australia again in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, at the same teams event and also in some individual short course speed skating events.

By the time 2002 came around, Steve was one of the older athletes, now at his 4th Winter Olympics. This 1000 metre individual event was one of three short track events he entered, but the only one he expected to perform well in, and when asked what his aspirations were, in the typical laconic Australian way he replied, ‘to stay on my feet, and if and when others fall, to hopefully get as far as I can. The four races in this event were all held on the one day, and he knew there was no way he could keep up with the younger guys. The favourite was the American, Apolo Anton Ohno.

Steven won his first race, a heat, and that put him straight into the quarter final. He finished third, effectively eliminating him from the field. However, the second place getter was disqualified for interfering with another racer, and Bradbury luckily made it into the semi final race.

He was again in fifth place in a normally four man field for most of the race, but luckily three others fell during the race and he sneaked into second place, assuring him of a place in the four man final. Another racer was given an extra place in that field after a successful protest, and again five men lined up for the race in what would normally be a 4 man field. Bradbury had no way whatever to keep up with these younger and much faster guys, so again it was a case of just staying on his feet. The rest is history when all the other four front runners fell on the very last corner. Bradbury, well back from the mayhem happening in front of him, cruised to the line arms raised in absolute disbelief that he might actually have won. There was a protest, but what actually happened after Bradbury crossed the line had a major effect on that protest. As you can see, two of the crashed skaters struggled to get a skate across the finish line, for second and third. Had they not done this, there may well have been a re run of the race, but because there actually were three finishers, the result stood, and Bradbury won what was Australia’s first Gold Medal at a Winter Olympic Games, having also shared the distinction of winning Australia’s fist ever medal at a Winter Games, that Bronze as part of the team in 1994.

Bradbury retired right then and there, after more than 14 years in the Sport, 11 of those at the top level, as he was ranked in the top ten in the World at the event for nearly all of those years. Steven’s win in this event has gone into immortality here in Australia, and he has never been one to have any pretensions about being the best in his event. When asked what it took for him to win his Gold, he laughs it off with the following.

“I stayed on my feet. I progressed due to two protests, and for me to win, 7 other guys has to fall over, and that’s exactly what did happen.”

Australia has always been well represented at Winter Olympic Games, and no, we do not practice in the Australian Antarctic Territories. We have only one major snow resort that has snow for some months in Winter. All our athletes in virtually every discipline have to train and compete overseas. We have some small Ice rinks mainly one or rarely two in Capital Cities, but after that there is virtually nothing. We may not get very many Medals, but we typify that typical Australian attitude to ‘have a go’ at anything.

The story of Steven Bradbury is legendary, not only in Skating, or in Winter disciplines, but in the annals of all Australian Sports. After his wonderful win, if a little unintended, he was awarded a grant of $20,000 which he put towards the first new car he had ever owned. His old car was off the road at the time of the Olympics, and he borrowed some money from his parents for repairs. He had a job making skates which gave him a very small income, and he practiced when and where he could.

It was a truly great story of the underdog winning despite so much adversity, and a little dash of luck, well, maybe a lot of luck spread over three races.

Steve now speaks on the circuit as a motivational speaker, and has also been awarded the Medal of The Order of Australia, for his lifetime achievements in his sport.

Steven Bradbury – An Australian athlete in the typical no nonsense tradition.

TonyfromOz adds …..

Something really odd happened here. The original video I posted was part one of this interview for an Australian TV show. That video had been sitting there on You Tube for years. Within one week of posting that video to our site, that video was withdrawn, with the rider that it breached IOC copyright. The IOC has been fiercely protective of their footage of Games events from all Games. However, and this is no joke, there are literally millions of clips on You Tube Of Olympic events, and in fact just for this one Steve Bradbury race, there are nearly 20 pages alone of footage of that race with 20 clips to a page. This is the only one that has been withdrawn. Secondly, it’s odd also that this was for an Australian TV show being broadcast in conjunction with those Games, so the producers of the show obviously had permission to broadcast specific events, as they would do so three and four times a night for the 17 day duration of the Games. I would like to post footage of the race here again, but I envisage the same thing happening again. However, if you were to just go to You Tube and type in ‘Steven Bradbury’, all you need to do then is to click on any one of more than 100 videos of the race. It would seem that the IOC has the power to even censor private TV shows it had given permission to in the first place, and not just their events.

I have replaced the original video with part two of that same interview, which has no footage of the race itself.

It would seem that copyright protection suddenly becomes very selective. If the IOC was to stick to its task of protecting that Copyright, it then should go to You Tube and have them all deleted. There would be millions, literally, covering Games going back decades, and would cost them a huge amount of money just paying the vast crowd of people it would need to check every video.

Posted in: Australia, Heroes, Videos