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Mysterious Mogul Man Cool on and Off Slope

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February 16, 2006

SAUZE d’OULX, Italy (AP by Brett Martel)—Meet Dale Begg-Smith, international man of mystery and now, an Olympic champion.

The guarded Australian was all business on his way to a gold medal in Olympic moguls _ not surprising considering his background.

A self-made, Lamborghini-driving millionaire at only age 21, he was a study in composure and precision during his winning run Wednesday, knees in flawless symmetry and jump landings clean. American Jeremy Bloom finished a disappointing sixth and will now set his sights on his NFL career.

Begg-Smith didn’t look terribly excited when he won _ raising his arms to acknowledge the cheering crowd but smiling only a little. It was sort of like he had just closed another big business deal.

“I’m very happy to win gold for Australia, he said flatly when asked how, as a former Canadian, it felt to win for his adopted country.

Given his decision to leave Canada and his business, Begg-Smith has avoided the media spotlight in the leadup to the Olympics. After winning, he chose his words carefully. He didn’t want to talk about his Internet ad-tracking business and refused even to give the name of the operation.

“I don’t know, he said, when asked for the umpteenth time to name the business he started when he was 13 with his older brother, Jason, who finished 29th Wednesday in moguls. “It was like, so long ago. I haven’t been doing much on that the last couple years.[pagebreak]Begg-Smith said he did the work to make money to fund his ski career, but has since all but shut it down to focus on skiing. The domain name he owns, adscpm.com, comes up as “under construction, meaning it is not operating right now.

He brushed aside questions about the business. “I don’t know why we’re talking about the company. I just won Olympic gold.

Begg-Smith also was vague when asked about his decision to emigrate to Australia about six years ago, when he was 15 and training with the Canadian national team.

He insisted there was no falling out with Canadian national team officials when he quit and moved Down Under, sitting out for a couple years before competing internationally again.

He also struggled to answer when asked if Canada should celebrate the medal as well.

“I don’t know. That’s everybody’s decision if they want to, he said. “I was happy with the program in Canada and I was happy with the program when I moved to Australia _ happy both ways.

Begg-Smith now lives in Melbourne but keeps an apartment in Vancouver, where the next Olympics will be, and he trains about two months per year in Whistler, north of Vancouver. He can’t say whether he’ll seek to compete in the 2010 Winter Games, but that’s certainly a possibility, given that he is the most dominant moguls skier in the world now at age 21.

He had won three of four World Cup events, finishing second in the other, coming into the Olympics.

On Wednesday, he had the top qualifying run, meaning he went last in the finals, knowing he had to beat an exceptionally high score of 26.62 set by Mikko Ronkainen of Finland. But Begg-Smith has made a reputation of being cool and confident, both on the slope and off.[pagebreak]”I don’t really think about anything except my runs, he said. “In training I don’t lose my composure, so in competition I try to keep it the same way. I ski my best in training and then I ski my best in competition.

He wasn’t as fast as Ronkainen or American bronze medalist Toby Dawson. But he was fast enough, while showing the best form through the moguls, which accounts for 50 percent of a competitor’s score.

He also nailed the landings of both jumps, the first a backflip with crossed skis, the second an off-axis 720 with skis crossed as well.

When it was over, he raised both arms as he crossed the finish, index fingers extended in a No. 1 signal, as if he knew he had won.

Maybe not the most flamboyant run. Maybe not the most flamboyant celebration.

Given his nature, it woulld have been silly to expect anything else.

“I just knew I did what I wanted to do and it was a good run. There wasn’t any room for mistakes, so I made sure to not have any, Begg-Smith said. “It was one of my better runs ever.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press