Last man standing: training and legend of Steven Bradbury in Salt Lake City 2002

By Gabriele Ferraresi
Let's face it, Australia does not shine when it comes to the Winter Olympics. In the midst of koalas and kangaroos there is little snow and even less ice for skating. Yet one of the most incredible gold medals in the history of short track was awarded to an Australian, Steven Bradbury, during the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games.

That year Bradbury took part in two competitions, the 1500 metres and the 1000 metres. He had already decided that those would have been his last Olympics and had been already thinking about retiring; behind him there were years and years of hard work and training, as well as a very serious accident in Lillehammer '94, when the blade of a skate cut an artery and almost bled him to death. He was just 21 years old.

unyielding determination
Despite it took him months and months to recover and above all to gain confidence once again, Bradbury kept on racing, for he knew he was too young to stop. He competed in the World Cup in Nagano in 1998, but all he gained there was a couple of fractured vertebrae and one month in the hospital. When he arrived in Salt Lake City, he knew that would have been his last Olympics, so he faced them without great expectations. He was fully aware that winning a gold medal was a mirage; the competition was strong – miles ahead of poor man Bradbury. Yet.

Instead, after the unfortunate 1500 meters where he got out in the second round, on the 1000 Bradbury skated towards a meeting with destiny. He passed the quarterfinals, coming second thanks to the disqualification of the French Marc Gagnon. Bradbury had then to challenge champions who have now entered the history of short track, like Apolo Anton Ohno - American - and Korean Ahn Hyun-soo.

He arrived at the semifinals: and there destiny began to want to have fun, or perhaps to return to Bradbury what he had taken away.

The short track is run in five: of the five in the race, three fall ruinously. Another competitor was disqualified. Thus, Bradbury won by default and made it to the final. It was – to put it mildly – quite the miracle already to have reached that point. However, he was not done yet.

The final began. Bradbury? About 15 metres behind the pack. He was getting progressively farther and farther, the clock was ticking and he got almost lapped by the leading quartet. Those 1000 meters of the short track must be skated fast, a sequence of swift curves on an oval of ice. A slippery oval, to be precise. Indeed, right at the last curve the Chinese Li Jiajun fell. Not just him: in the fall, he also accidentally dragged Apolo Anton Ohno, Mathieu Turcotte and Ahn Hyun-soo.

A comic carambola: an Bradbury incredulous surpassed them all and crossed the finish line first. Miracle accomplished and first ever gold medal at the Winter Olympics for Australia.

Where is our unlikely hero today? Today Steven Bradbury enjoys his past glory and works as a motivational speaker. In Australia he is remembered as a hero, between stamps dedicated to him and his surname now synonymous with unexpected success in an exceptional endeavour.

To pull a Bradbury: An improbable victory attained by default; achievement only made possible by the clumsiness/misfortune of others. Urban Dictionary

Beyond the miracle: short track training

Although the blindfolded goddess heavily helped Steven Bradbury, no one can deny his Olympic stature, and therefore the intense track and off track training this athlete did to reach the top of the podium at the Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In the short track, the athletes challenge each other by speeding over an ice lap just over 110 meters long, easily reaching 50 kilometres per hour and, as we have clearly seen in the case of Steven Bradbury, without any protection between one athlete and another. Because of its spectacularization - and probably waiting to see a new Bradbury styled miracle, short track skating is among the most followed and appreciated ice sports by the public.

Speeding towards the podium
In this sport, even the slightest time difference can determine whether the athlete will be on the podium or not, and everything, from the training schedule to the equipment literally produced on the athlete's body, is optimized to achieve maximum speed in the shortest possible time.

The training, carried out both on and off track, is therefore focused on the explosiveness of the lower musculature of the athlete, which must be both extremely responsive and able to reach and sustain very high speeds in a corridor of ice a few meters wide.

The ideal body of a short track ice skater
Therefore, the short track skater has extremely muscular and toned legs and buttocks, the parts responsible for the thrust, with an overall athletic physique, though leaner and more aerodynamic.

Short-track skaters take years to achieve this physical form. Some of the most common exercises include various running techniques to improve their coordination, such as kicked and lateral running, skip, alternated steps and the classic sprint.

To maximise the strength of the lower limbs, off track workouts involve various forms of sled exercises and uphill running. For the muscles of the whole body, the ideal training includes exercises with the med ball.

Create your ideal circuit with Skillrun

Short-track skaters usually do all these exercises by creating special training circuits. Skillrun offers the possibility to perform, in a single treadmill, these training circuits aimed at improving strength, agility, endurance and speed. The sledge mode in Skillrun, for example, simulates the sensation of pushing a sledge on the grass, while with cadence training you can exercise all your coordination by monitoring in real time cadence, flight and contact time.

All these exercises can be combined into continuous training sessions, which allow the seamless transition from one exercise mode to another.

In other words, Skillrun allows you to do in a small space the same exercises that you would only be able to do on an athletic field, allowing you to train quickly, efficiently and safely - certainly without the risk of a skater suddenly falling on you and Bradbury winning the title.

For those who want to combine total body muscle training with Skillrun - as in the case of short track skaters - we recommend trying Skillrun Bootcamp. This is a high intensity interval training class in which Skillrun features are combined with functional training, in a fully monitored environment thanks to TEAM BEATS technology, which allows you to track your individual performance (expressed in beats per minute, calories and Moves) in real time and over time.

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