When the athletes climbed the podium to receive their medals in men's moguls, Dale Begg-Smith didn't look happy.
Around this time the CTV announcer made an unusual comment, calling Begg-Smith, the Canadian who competes for Australia, the "villain" of the competition - an assessment that was a little strong in this writer's opinion.
I knew Dale Begg-Smith 10 years ago and interviewed him several times when he was chasing national junior championships and turning heads. Confident? Yes. Cocky? Absolutely! But to his credit he always backed it up on the snow.
Even at a young age most coaches recognized that Begg-Smith was an outstanding skier and the FIS decision to allow inverted tricks and 720 spins in competition played to his strengths. Begg-Smith was a solid park skier in the days before twin tips were invented, winning the first big air contest ever sanctioned by FIS.
But Begg-Smith's decision to compete for Australia should not be seen as a rejection of Canada. At the time the provincial team rejected him and his older brother Jason because they could not fully commit to the training program. The brothers already had a growing Internet advertising business to manage and would bring their computer towers along on the road to competitions.
Begg-Smith was 15 years old and a national junior champion, but in the end the B.C. team and national teams couldn't make exceptions or allowances for the brothers' business interests. Jason was the first to find a home with the grass roots Australian program and Dale went along soon after - the Australian team offered them the flexibility to compete and operate their business, as well as a lot of support. Not that they needed it - Dale and Jason already trained on their own, building mogul sets and jumps on Whistler and Blackcomb, while Dale also found time to train with Finnish World Cup star Janne Lehtela.
They didn't compete for three years while the brothers qualified for Australian citizenship and then entered the World Cup circuit in the 2003-04 season. The next season Dale Begg-Smith won the overall World Cup title, and followed up with the gold medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
He missed most of last season with an injury, but has re-established himself as one of the top competitors on the World Cup circuit. He's also just 25 years old and if he chooses he can be a threat in 2014 and 2018.
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