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THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Many still consider it the greatest piece of Olympic luck ever.

Whatever, says Steven Bradbury.

The Australian short track skater, who won the 1,000-meter final after every other skater in the race fell down, believes it was well deserved and is still capitalizing on the fame of capturing the unlikeliest gold medal of the Salt Lake City Games.

His looks have changed little: hawkish nose, peroxide-bleached spiky hair and the slyest of smirks that seems to have stuck to him ever since he crossed the finish line after everybody else - including American star Apolo Anton Ohno - had literally fallen out of contention.

''You always get the people who say I won because I was lucky, but that doesn't bother me in the slightest,'' he said. ''I am a 100 percent satisfied and deserved Olympic gold medalist, and the people who want to take it down are the people who are not prepared to get off their [backside] and do something for themselves.''

Now he does the motivational speech circuit in Australia with one message - never despair, no one can ever predict what will happen next.

''As I know better than anyone,'' he said, ''anything can happen.''

He'll be back at the Turin Olympics in February, this time as a television commentator after he was the team leader who led the Australian short-track relay team through Olympic qualifying in the Netherlands.

Surely he will be asked to recount that fateful race Feb. 16, 2002 again. He still remembers every detail.

He came into Salt Lake a veteran at 28, bent on proving himself after three disappointing Olympics. He knew, however, he no longer had the speed to beat the top skaters.

After reaching the semifinals, he knew simply staying out of harm's way gave him his best chance to reach the final.

Three skaters fell in the semis, allowing the Australian to make a surprising appearance in the final.

He figured he could hope for two to crash, which would allow him to sneak away with the bronze.

''Two guys getting tangled up - I never imagined four getting tangled up,'' said Bradbury, who can't help but laugh when he thinks back on what happened.

Not everyone was as amused. Boos cascaded down from the American crowd, who had expected Ohno to skate away with the gold. Ohno won the silver after crawling to the finish line.

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