Chloe McLeod, one of Australia's two entrants in the World Short Track Championships, was skating training laps around Montreal's Maurice Richard Arena last Thursday as her coach, Steven Bradbury, urged her on. "Keep it going, Chloe," implored Bradbury. "Test your luck. You never know."
Although McLeod would finish 33rd out of 34 skaters at the championships last weekend, her coach's advice had resonance. Bradbury was the unlikeliest gold medalist at the Salt Lake City Olympics, the victor in the dramatic 1,000-meter short track final that ended after a last-lap crash took down front-runner Apolo Ohno and the rest of the five-man field—except Bradbury. "I couldn't mix it with those guys. They were too fast," recalls Bradbury, whose strategy was to hang back and wait for something serendipitous. "The sun shines on every dog's arse sometime."
Bradbury retired from skating after that event, figuring his career had peaked, and his life since has been a whirlwind of celebration and newfound fame. The night he won gold, he rode on revelers' shoulders at a watering hole called The Last Lap, where he was again the last bloke standing. The next day the Australian postal service said it would put him on a stamp. A week later the mayor of Brisbane, Bradbury's hometown, held a reception in his honor. After going his whole career without a manager, he signed with Rob Woodhouse of Elite Sports Properties, who notes that Bradbury "is in great demand to speak at a whole range of functions."
All of this is a dramatic change for a laid-back 28-year-old surfer who's never had a regular job and still lives with his parents. Bradbury says that until Salt Lake his earnings in skating "added up to a big zero." That's why he was thrilled to sign an endorsement deal with an Australian beer company. "Carlton paid me to drink their beer," says Bradbury. "I can do that." Several salons have asked to style his hair, but Bradbury has resisted, preferring his self-made 'do, a mop best described as deep rough on a blond golf course.
Soon, Bradbury plans to quit coaching and take a full-time job as a fireman. "I did what I had to for myself," he says. "Could I explain how to follow my career blueprint? Not in a million years, mate."