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It’s usually easier to line-up an interview with Schapelle Corby than Dale Begg-Smith, regardless of whether you want to stump up $3 million.
As it turned out, the elusive Canadian-born moguls skier didn’t need financial enticement from a commercial TV network. He didn’t require prompting from team officials, who for years have shielded him from those who just want to know our most successful winter Olympian a little better.
All that was needed was an unceremonious and spectacular face-plant on the second run in qualifying, which brought an abrupt end to his Olympic career, to coax the 29-year-old out of his shell.
“That was like burying your head in the snow like an ostrich,” beamed the American announcer over the loud speaker after Begg-Smith crashed and burned on the final jump of his second run.
Nobody expected Begg-Smith to end his Olympic career like that, just as nobody had expected what came next _ that Begg-Smith wanted to talk about it.
“There wasn’t much I could do when I was on my face,” he joked of his gaffe. “I just wasn’t feeling it today.”
The reason, in part, was the snow. It hasn’t snowed in Sochi for weeks. In fact, it’s becoming so mild in the ski resort of Rosa Khutor that some people are wearing t-shirts, if only for a matter of minutes.
The snow is melting, and conditions and changing on the mountain.
“I got really soft,” Begg-Smith said. “I haven’t skied in the soft snow for four years. You have to train in Australia if you want to get some of that. I just wasn’t feeling it. I felt a little bit off. I couldn’t get centred. In a desperate move, I tried to change lines and move things around. The line I was in wasn’t working for me. It is what it is.”
When Begg-Smith speaks, it is usually engaging. It prompts the question: why didn’t he ever speak more?
He admitted a medal was always going to be a long shot after a three-year hiatus from serious competition.
“It was a desperate move coming back this year,” he said. “My body wasn’t there. If you don’t ski for three years, you are kind of hoping for a miraculous performance, and there were a few good ones along the way. It just didn’t work out here.”
And where to now for the Australian/Canadian/Cayman Islands international man of mystery?
“We’ll have to see,” he laughed. “I’m an international man of mystery, right? I have to keep you guys guessing.”
And those words, you sense, were the last we’ll ever hear from Dale Begg-Smith.
We will certainly be hearing more from Matt Graham, though, and it is the influence on him and other mogul competitors that will be Begg-Smith’s legacy.
After Sam Hall also bombed out in qualifying, and Brodie Summers went out in the first round of the finals, Graham almost made the final six _ the “super final” _ only to narrowly miss out.
It had come down to the last run, with Russian Alexandr Smyshlyaev squeezing him out.
Like many moguls events, the judging seemingly favours those with reputation. Canadian favourite Alex Bilodeau won the gold.
“I was happy with my runs,” Graham said. “But to miss the Super Final by 0.01 is heartbreaking.”
Begg-Smith had stayed there until the end, trying to give Graham as much of his “energy” as he could.
“It was fun coming and I’m glad I went out on my own terms,” he said.
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