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20 years ago, an Olympics disaster let one skater make history

Steven Bradbury stunned the world in 2002 by winning a gold medal in speed skating after all his opponents crashed right before crossing the finish line.

SALT LAKE CITY — Slow and steady wins the race, right? 

Well, that was certainly the case 20 years ago when an Australian speed skater made Olympics history after he snuck up from behind his competitors to win a gold medal. 

Steven Bradbury was trailing behind all his opponents in the 1000m race at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics on Feb. 16, 2002. 

During the last stretch around the track, all the other skaters crashed into each other and stumbled across the ice rink. The sudden collision provided a clear pathway for Bradbury to quickly skate across the finish line in first place. 

His opponents continued to slip and slide across the track, all frantically attempting to reach the end. 

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“There was complete chaos, and everybody fell down,” Bradbury said after the race. “Given the way I won the race, I wasn’t going to be the guy who went around pumping my fists. I just put my arms up in disbelief.”

Bradbury's surprise victory made him the first athlete from the southern hemisphere to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Though luck was on Bradbury's side in 2002, the skater had experienced his fair share of disasters on the race track. 

Eight years before his victory, another skater's blade accidentally sliced Bradbury's leg at a World Cup event, resulting in him needing over 100 stitches to repair the damage. 

But Bradbury learned to be a more cautious skater, which ended up playing in his favor in 2002. 

The infamous pile-up continues to be a memorable moment in Olympics history and may serve as a helpful lesson for the skaters competing this year in Beijing.

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