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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 12:34 GMT

Australia salutes Bradbury

Australia, no stranger to sporting success, began embracing its newest Olympic hero Steven Bradbury on Monday.

"An accidental winter gold hero," said The Australian newspaper's front-page headline on Monday.

The Courier Mail in Brisbane, Bradbury's home town, headlined their front-page story "Last man skating grabs Olympic gold."

The short-track speedskater triumphed in Saturday's 1,000-metre final when the four racers in front of him crashed out on the final bend.

Bradbury was way off the pace in last place but skated through the debris for Australia's first ever Winter Olympic gold.

The Sydney Morning Herald acclaimed Bradbury's tactics.

The paper said: "In the fabled tradition of the tortoise and the hare, Australia's Steven Bradbury went into the Winter Olympic speedskating final with a cunning plan of waiting for his rivals to falter. They did."

"It was a victory for the also-rans and bench-warmers who exist mainly to make up the numbers"
Associated Press' Doug Conway

The four-time Olympian had already implemented his plan to great effect, with crashes and disqualification to other skaters sending him through the quarters and semi-finals.

But while he dreamed of sneaking through for a bronze in the final if the same was to happen he could not imagine that the whole field would disappear in front of him.

Doug Conway, a senior correspondent with Australian Associated Press, predicted the phrase "doing a Bradbury," would enter Australian diction.

"Steven Bradbury's unlikeliest of skating gold medals was a victory for the hundreds of thousands of kids who troop onto Australian sporting fields every weekend wishing they were something they are not - the best," said Conway.

"It was a victory for the also-rans and bench-warmers who exist mainly to make up the numbers, whose dreams of glory beat solitary time in the most private corners of optimistic young hearts.

"It furnishes them with 24-carat proof that the race is not always won by the fleetest, nor the fight by the strongest. The best can be beaten."

Australia Post announced it would be issuing a stamp in Bradbury's honour, while marketing experts expected him to cash in on his success.

"I think he's got potential to pick up a six-figure sponsorship in the next 12 months," said marketing consultant Max Markson.

"He comes from the hottest state in Australia and he's won Australia's first Winter Olympics gold medal in a very different way.

"If he can get a speech together that sums up all the things he's been through and how we won his gold medal, then there's potential there too."

Markson likened Bradbury's achievement to the story of the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the Calgary Olympics in 1988, which inspired the film Cool Runnings.

And Markson believed the luck element in Bradbury's win would appeal to the commercial world.

"He's the luckiest man in the world today," said Markson.

"Powerball, the lotto (lottery) people, things like that - they could be interested as well. He's got at least four years in the spotlight."

Meanwhile, Bradbury's own business - the Revolutionary Boot Company - could also be set for a boost.

Bradbury and former Australian speed skating champion Clint Jensen make custom-made skating boots in Jensen's garage in Brisbane.

The boots cost about 700 a pair and are used by many of the short-track speed skaters at the Olympics - including gold medal favorite Apolo Anton Ohno of the United States, who picked himself up to win silver.

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