Steven Bradbury's gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics was worth a chuckle and a wry shake of the head, but didn't really warrant the four years of minor celebrity that Bradbury has subsequently enjoyed. Sure, people still talk about similar freak events in recent sporting history, like Glenn McGrath's half century and Fatty's fucking catch, but at least these were discernable achievements that weren't predicated on the incompetence of others. Bradbury's claim to fame is that he managed to stay on his feet while his competitors got a bad case of ice rash. His gold medal was less for speed skating than it was for being able to stay upright for extended periods. A certificate of participation would have been a more appropriate prize.
Surely whatever non-material value winning has comes from a sense of achievement, in terms of effort spent, and competition met. Bradbury may have put in the effort, but his competition ceased to exist at key moments in his progression to the podium. Honouring him is like honouring Grant Hackett if on the last turn of the 1500 metres his opponents sank to the bottom of the pool and turned blue. Australians proudly (and hypocritically) scorn the American ethos of victory at any cost, yet the "any victory is a good victory" mindset that has elevated Bradbury is equally perverse. Steven Bradbury ought to have joined Australia's serried ranks of honourable also-rans, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Wayne Arthurs and that guy Warnie/Joe the cameraman reckoned couldn't bowl or throw. Instead, fate thrust him into the spotlight as a winner who is also a loser who is also a winner. Bradbury's position is unnatural, an aberration, and I for one cringe whenever he appears on tv.
It doesn't help that he looks like Sonic the Hedgehog with a paunch. It helps less that he is apparently so smug about his success. Check out his performance in the new series of ads promoting Seven's coverage of this year's Winter Olympics. (The prospect of a Winter Olympics and a Commonwealth Games all in the one year makes me look back on the manifold horrors of 2005 with fond nostalgia.) These obnoxious slices of twaddle feature Bradbury making last-minute, come-from-behind victories in the game of life1. One ad sees shoppers vying for the attention of a checkout chick who is just starting her shift. Suddenly, Bradbury sweeps in and plonks his stuff down on the counter, his face apparently suffering some kind of torsion after four years of dining out on his "win" that causes him to smirk in a most disturbing manner. I'm telling you, when you see this ad you will want to punch Steven Bradbury in the knob!
What is Steven Bradbury for? What good is he to anyone? He can't skate, he can't act, he can't appear on tv without making thousands of people want to punch him in the knob. He doesn't know what's going to happen in the next series of Lost2. He doesn't even make a good subject for a vitriolic blog post. I hate to say it, but I hope he dies4.
1. This is of course the metaphorical game of life, not the semi-popular Milton Bradley board game, which Bradbury would only be capable of winning if all the other player's tokens melted on the first go.
2. I do. The island turns out to be an enormous cruiseship that wanders the world's oceans seeking first-class acts for its nightly floorshow. The final scene of the final episode features the bald guy, the fat guy, and the guy from Party of Five in a bubble bath. The bald guy lights a cigar, looks at somebody over his shoulder and says, "Simon - the Carribean." Fade to black3.
3. Yes, Jon, I'm stealing/ruining all your jokes.
4. Not really.