Is Dale Begg-Smith entitled to be a sourpuss?
Dale Begg-Smith has just won his second straight medal for Australia at a Winter Olympics, then snubbed the media like he did at Torino.
Immediately after the moguls final on Cypress Mountain, the three medallists were presented to the public. The winner and bronze medallist were beaming. Silver medallist Begg-Smith had more or less the same expression as a brick wall, and utterly spoiled the scene.
Moments later, Channel Nine’s Tim Gilbert snared an interview with Canada’s Alexandre Bilodeau, who had just won his nation’s first gold medal at a home Olympics. The French Canadian dedicated the medal to his disabled brother.
Begg-Smith was nowhere to be seen, and will undoubtedly duck further interviews today.
The question is: should he make himself available to the media? And despite his obvious disappointment at finishing the narrowest of seconds, was his grim face outright bad sportsmanship?
I say yes and yes. Many of you will likely say “well you’re a journo, you would say that”. Others, I hope, will take him to task for his latest stonewalling.
First, a bit more background for those whose knowledge of Sanskrit and the Winter Olympics are roughly on the same level.
Vancouver born and raised, Begg-Smith moved to Australia aged 15 when the Canadian freestyle team wouldn’t give him leave to tinker with his IT business, which reportedly has since made him a multi-millionaire. The business is said to have something to do with that great humanitarian tool, pop up-ads.
He now trains under the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia’s imported American coach, Steve Desovich, and spends time each year at the NSW resort of Perisher. The rest of the year, he trains and works in the northern hemisphere, which is of course his right as an Australian citizen.
In all likelihood, Dale Begg-Smith can’t tell you who won last year’s AFL grand final and has no taste for Vegemite. Nor, I’d guess, can he name an Australian politician other than Kevin Rudd.
But whether he’s “Australian” enough is not the issue here. The issue is whether an athlete who competes in the green-and-gold should be obliged – or at least feel obliged – to give the Aussie media the time of day.
Begg-Smith first showed his recalcitrance four years ago in Torino, when he was repeatedly quizzed about his business.
OK, so the media might’ve asked an extra question or two about moguls. But really, they’re snowy bumps and he skis them better than anyone. What else is to know?
At some point, the same public who pays for uniforms and coaches and a million other Olympic expenses deserves something back from their athletes.
We get a medal, we want a human being into the bargain. That human being doesn’t have to be warm or gracious (though it helps). They just have to give us half an inkling into their state of mind, and maybe thank a few people on the way.
For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that Begg-Smith is incredibly popular with locals and kids in Perisher, to whom he willingly gives his limited time in the brief southern hemisphere training season.
He should ask himself how many more of those kids might be inspired by a guy who presents a warm, amicable face when the nation’s biggest media outlets politely request his time.
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