Dale Begg-Smith’s Australia Day honours – really?
When the Australia Day gongs were handed down I was little bit surprised to find that moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith was amongst the recipients this year, receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to sport.
A gold medal moguls winner for Australia in 2006 at the Turin Winter Olympics he backed it up with silver four years later in Vancouver.
Those achievements are unquestioned and from all reports he has given back a fair bit of his time to fellow skiers, his mentorship no doubt helping to pave the way for the likes of Matt Graham and Britt Cox to achieve the success they have.
But – and here comes the but …
As a Canadian who came to Australia with his brother because work commitments didn’t allow him to compete under the maple leaf, his was a citizenship of convenience.
In itself no crime – but, training camps aside when he was competing, how much time as he actually spent in Australia since? Last I’d heard he was based in the Cayman Islands
From a media perspective I probably got to know Dale about as well as anyone in the press – which is to say not much at all.
He was unusual in that he didn’t need to court the media – in fact he dodged it – because he simply didn’t need or want the press.
I interviewed him first in 2005 in Italy when he started making podiums for his adopted country. The answers were brief but he was pretty chilled out and not unlikable. The early word was he was independently wealthy and drove around in a Lamborghini courtesy of his successful Internet business.
But things changed irrecoverably during the 2006 Winter Olympics. When reporters did some digging on what his business actually constituted the results didn’t serve him so well. His companies were associated with spam, pop-up ads, malware and spyware. Legal, yes, but hardly endearing to public at large.
Begg-Smith won in Turin but things just got weirder.
The post-event press conference was still the strangest I’ve seen in covering sport for almost 20 years. He was literally grilled by the world’s media for close to 15 minutes – about his business, not his gold medal.
The next eight years were an intermittent DBS circus. He’d keep winning but odd things invariably followed. His 2010 Games press conference under a floodlit chair ran like an interrogation (sans international media who weren’t invited). His 2014 arrival in Sochi was a farce, where he was led away in a car in botched attempt not to be seen despite media being told they could take footage.
At some point he also appears to have used this company which specialises in cleaning up your online reputation by getting the positive stories to appear first in Google search results.
All this shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments as a skier. A two-times Games medallist and four-times overall World Cup champion, he could make any hack swoon with just how effortlessly he bashed the bumps.
And his legacy? As mentioned, we’re seeing it right now with Graham and Cox now potential gold medal hopes in Pyeongchang.
If skiing had an honours day I’d happily see him claim a medal. But an Australia Day honour? Not so sure about that one folks.