‘Accidental hero’ Salt Lake 2002 gold medalist receives Australian bravery award

BRISBANE, Australia — More than 20 years after winning an unlikely gold medal in short track speedskating at the Salt Lake City Olympics, Steven Bradbury is back in the news for another good reason.

Bradbury has been presented with a bravery award by the Queensland state governor for rescuing four teenagers from rough seas at a beach at Caloundra, an hour north of the capital Brisbane, in March of last year.

In 2002, Bradbury became known as the “accidental hero” after winning Australia’s first Winter Olympics gold medal.

Bradbury was well off the pace in the 1,000-meter race when all four of his competitors crashed out at the final corner while jostling for the gold medal. That allowed Bradbury, who was about 15 meters behind, to avoid the pile-up and glide through to win the final.

Australian Olympic Committee President Ian Chesterman on Wednesday said Bradbury’s courage and quick thinking saved lives last year.

“The fact that Steven acted quickly, calmly and with such courage is so impressive. He richly deserves this recognition,” Chesterman said of the bravery award. “We have always admired Steven for the way he has made history on the ice, but his actions last year reflect an incredible achievement — saving four young lives.”

Bradbury, now 50, was teaching his son to ride a surfboard when he spotted a teenage girl in trouble. He sent his son to alert lifeguards while he paddled to the young woman, who he returned to the beach before paddling out again to assist three other teenagers in trouble.

“I don’t feel like a bravery award is necessary, but I am happy to accept it and feel pretty proud about it,” Bradbury told Australian Associated Press on Wednesday. “The feeling of knowing that you have saved people’s lives is something I will take to my grave.”

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