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US Politics

The Accidental Hero

As the presumptive candidate for the Republican nomination, the time has come to ask the question

At first glance this article may not appear to be concerned with US politics. However Senator John McCain does get a mention eventually. There is a method in my madness. Or as Sir Humphrey Appleby, the fictional head of the British public service would have put it in the outstanding English TV political comedy,”Yes Minister” – Of course Minister, I shall speak of Senator McCain – “In the fullness of time!”

In the meantime…

When a little known skater from Australia lined up in the 1000m short track speed skating semi- final, courtesy of a disqualification in the quarter final at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the young man from the antipodes hadn’t the faintest idea of what lay before him. Racing in the biggest event of his life, Steven Bradbury found he was still at the back of the field approaching the final bend.

Out in front, four of the best skaters in the world were aggressively jockeying for position and it came as no surprise when they collided around the home turn, causing three of them to hit the unforgiving ice as if each was an nine pin going south. In their wake, was a trailing and somewhat dumbstruck Steven Bradley. Wending his way carefully around his fallen rivals he crossed the finish line in second place. The modest young man from Brisbane, suddenly realised he had qualified for an Olympic final. Something beyond his wildest dreams.

The next evening, the night of the Olympic final, Bradley just happy to be there, was once again in last place approaching the the home turn. All four champions in front were traveling at breakneck speed desperately seeking glory and Olympic gold. All of a sudden the leading skater slipped, and then to every one’s amazement he fell and took the other three skaters who were in close, down with him. Twenty metres back and well clear was the now familiar figure of Steven Bradley. As if skating in slow motion he cruised past the four distraught figures strewn all over the track and managed to stay on his feet for the final 50 metres to ease across the line. The crowd erupted. It was like watching a replay of the semi-final.

The winner couldn’t believe it, the crowd couldn’t believe it and a billion pairs of television eyes around the globe couldn’t believe it either. The Olympic final and semi – final were miraculous mirror images of each other. There was no precedent in Olympic records. Steven stood alone on the track. He seemed confused. The crowd appeared equally unsure. The officials knew the result. A gold medal for Australia.

As the last man standing Steven Bradbury had become the “Accidental Hero”. The clever headline agreed by the world’s media. He received more media coverage than all of the super champions at the Olympics. All due to the manner of his win and the fascinating allure of the underdog which promises all mere mortals against the odds, no matter how unlikely, a chance one day to live their dream.

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