Yesterday Dale Begg-Smith won silver medal in the Men’s Moguls at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It was a great effort – given that he was coming off a knee surgery only 12 months ago, and the conditions did not suit his style (which is at its best the slicker and tougher the conditions are).
But today’s Sydney Morning Herald had on the front page an op-ed piece by Peter Fitzsimons:
You see Begg-Smith didn’t smile enough on the podium when he got his silver medal – or at least not enough for Fitzsimons’s liking. Did the article mention anything about him coming back from knee surgery? Did it say anything at all about his performance. Nope and Nope. Instead there was some bollocks about the reason Australian don’t like him is not because he has a foreign accent or a hyphen name (!). No it’s because he doesn't do good interviews or smile enough.
The fact is he didn’t smile all that much when he won four years ago at Torino – so you can hardly say he is a sore loser. Obviously the guy doesn’t go for big showing of feeling (sounds pretty Australian to me).
Yesterday in The Punch Anthony Sharwood wrote a piece:
Is Dale Begg-Smith entitled to be a sourpuss?
Here is a line that Sharwood, the Senior writer for Australia’s biggest sports magazine Alpha, wrote in his piece:
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?
Get that? A sports journalist telling us the sport is essentially yada yada yada. I can imagine him writing of Federer, “but really tennis is just hitting a ball back and forth, and he does it better than anyone. What else is there to know”.
And this guy is a sport journo? You’d think he would actually be interested in sport…
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.
You think if he wanted to slant his article differently he might have given that more prominence?
The odd thing is that being disappointed by coming second is not limited to Begg-Smith; have a look at Eamon Sullivan in Beijing.
But then Sullivan is easy on the eyes and gives a nice press conference so all is forgiven. Ditto the snipe from Fitzsimons about Begg-Smith spending most of the year in Vancouver. I don’t recall anyone being too up in arms about the fact all our best golfers live in America because (like Begg-Smith) that’s where the sport is, or that Pat Rafter for most of his career resided in the tax-free haven of the Bahamas. But then Pat was easy on the eyes and gave a nice interview…
The thing is when Begg-Smith went over the line he did show emotion – fleeting yes, but nonetheless it was there. And when he was beaten by the Canadian skier, he was the first to give him a congratulatory hug and was smiling while he did it. And funnily enough while watching the medal presentation he did smile when he got the medal – he just wasn’t during the official photos.
And as for interviews, well tonight I saw an interview he gave Matt Shirvington on Foxtel. He was gracious and very humble. When asked how it felt to be Australia most successful Winter Olympian, he immediately talked of how the team was full of great young athletes and they were all building towards a stronger showing in four years time – essentially saying yeah he might be the most successful now, but he hoped others would soon beat his achievements. So we have a guy who when asked to praise himself instead talks about other young athletes in the team. Yeah, let’s rip into him. What a prick.
Look, I would not say I was a Begg-Smith fan (I’m not into the mogols to really have a care either way), but when I snuck into the staff TV room to watch his run yesterday I sure was willing him to win. That he doesn't give enough interviews, or smile enough to please the sports “journalists” of this country, for mine, says more about them than him.