In the lexicon of Australian sport, Steven Bradbury holds a very special place. So special, his surname functions as both noun and verb. His gold medal in the 1000m short track speedskating at the 2002 Winter Olympics is considered to be one of the most unlikely and unexpected wins in the history of sports. And his underdog status meant he has become a cult hero down under.
As I prepare to race at the World Age Group Championships in Rotterdam, I feel like I need to “pull a Bradbury” just to have any hope of being competitive in the M40 age group. While I’m proud to represent Australia, I fear I will finish dead last. And probably with the guys cleaning up the streets, because the M40 sprint distance is the last start time for the day.
I keep telling myself to relax and just enjoy the experience, and to finish wherever I finish. But I’m still hoping to “Bradbury”, because I want to represent my country well. And as this is shaping as my triathlon swan-song, I’d like to go out at the very least a finisher (ahead of the street cleaner).
At the 2013 World Champs in London, I was a respectable 63rd (out of 110 in my M35 age group). But I was fitter then, more motivated and a far better runner. Triathlon has also evolved considerably since then, and I fear the M40 age group (and all the other age groups) will be packed with elite amateurs, perhaps with even the best amateur triathletes in the world.
I am not one of them. For me, this Sunday will be all about survival. It’s a draft legal race (meaning athletes can ride behind each other). I want to get through the swim alright, bike the course without crashing, then do my best in the run. Come to think of it, not even a “Bradbury” will help.
It’s best I go to Rotterdam and treat it like a holiday. And race for the fun of it, placing be damned. Come on, Aussie.