A Winter Olympics story ….doing a Bradbury

Doing a Bradbury…

“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”

Steven Bradbury – Gold Medal Winner 2002 Winter Olympics

With the end of the 2022 Winter Olympics comes a great story from the past.

So, who was Steven Bradbury and why did he become famous?

In 2002 Bradbury was the first athlete from Australia, and also the Southern Hemisphere to win a Winter Olympic Gold Medal. He was a former short track speed skater, a four-time Olympian and was also a member of the short track relay team that won Australia’s first Winter Olympic medal, a Bronze Medal in 1994.

So apart from being the first Australian athlete to win a Winter Olympics Gold Medal what was he famous for?

It was in the manner of his win. Bradbury slipped into the 1,000m speed skating final when two of his competitors in the semi-final crashed and another was disqualified. In the final, in the last lap as his competitors jostled for medal positions, Bradbury drifted further and further behind. With just metres from the finish line, a pile-up took out every other skater and avoiding the collision, he glided past to claim the Gold Medal.

His win entered the Australian colloquial vernacular in the phrase “doing a Bradbury” meaning an unexpected or unusual success.

However, there is more to this than chance. Bradbury was from tropical Queensland, not a state conducive to winter sports. He travelled the world, living hand to mouth to complete internationally, and competed in four Winter Olympics. At one stage he needed to borrow $1000 from his parents to repair his car so he could get to training. He supported himself by making skating boots in a home workshop. The years of hard work and training included nearly bleeding to death when a skate blade cut an artery requiring 111 stiches in 1994. Also in 1998, he fractured his vertebrae.

What are the lessons here for business owners and managers?

  • Hard work and sacrifice pay off.

In our logistics business there were times when a key customer left putting the business under pressure. However, with the previous hard work in networking and business development they were quickly replaced. Success can be a matter of luck, but it rarely is.  

  • Having a goal and vision

Bradbury’s goal was to win an Olympic medal on his own. The 2002 Olympics was his last chance. Despite his setbacks he hung in there, even when it looked increasingly unlikely that he would be successful, he succeeded and achieved his goal.

  • Being in the race

Yes, Bradbury’s tactic was to hang in there. This paid off as his rivals slipped, crashed and went spinning wildly across the ice. We had a customer in our logistics business who tendered for a lucrative post office franchise at an Australian airport. He was 5th or 6th in line, and eventually won the tender as his competitors were one by one, disqualified as being unsuitable, for reasons ranging from having a criminal record to no experience.

The Stephen Bradbury saga is a great story that resonates.  

Can you think of some other lessons?


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