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OLYMPICS

Dale Begg-Smith looks for acceptance

Men's moguls star is Canadian, competes for Australia and isn't a hero in either place.

February 14, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Reporting from Vancouver, Canada — "Thought about, not understood. He's achin' to be."

OK, so the indie rock group the Replacements used the word "she" instead of "he" -- in writing "Achin' To Be" -- but the lyrics, in some sense, could not be a better, more precise fit for freestyler Dale Begg-Smith.

Achin' to repeat as an Olympic champion in the men's moguls competition, which is Sunday night at Cypress Mountain.

And certainly not understood.

Not by people in the city (Vancouver) and country (Canada) where he was born. And most definitely not by his adopted countrymen in Australia.

Whether it is because he doesn't spend a significant amount of time Down Under or that the one-time software magnate once had to fend off questions about his business presence on the Internet.

The headline in the Australian newspaper Age didn't celebrate his win in Turin with a conventional headline but offered this snappy rejoinder:

"Spam Man Wins Gold."

And spam was not a reference to a liking for that meat product.

Still, the tough questions and scrutiny did not launch Begg-Smith back into the arms of his former countrymen. This week, he held a news conference but made sure not to invite any Canadian reporters.

Begg-Smith has the chance to deliver yet another shot at Canadians should he win Sunday. Depending on what happens in the first day and a half of events, Canada could still be searching for its first gold medal when the Olympics have been held on Canadian soil.

Talk about irony wrapping the Olympics in a bear hug should a kid born in Vancouver win gold.

Standing in the way of his gold-medal defense, primarily, are Guilbaut Colas of France, Jesper Bjoernlund of Sweden and Alex Bilodeau of Canada. The top American freestyler is Patrick Deneen.

Begg-Smith is coming off a serious knee injury last year but has shown strong form this season, winning at Calgary, Canada, and Deer Valley, Utah.

Deneen is the reigning world champion and holds a flashy nickname, having been dubbed "the Rocket" by Jean-Luc Brassard, a former moguls champion from Canada.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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