Aussie Dale Begg-Smith looking for a third Winter Games medal. Image courtesy of www.perthnow.com.au
Dale Begg-Smith is Australia’s ‘mogul master’ after winning the gold medal in 2006 and silver in 2010. Matt Graham is the apprentice, rising through the senior ranks in the past 14 months, after just missing Games selection as a 15-year-old.
After claiming silver in Vancouver, Begg-Smith has been absent from the competitive mogul skiing scene for three of the last four years, concentrating on his lucrative IT business in the Cayman Islands. The reclusive Canadian-born Begg-Smith is already Australia’s most successful athlete at the Winter Games, but can become the world’s most decorated male freestyle skier, if he finishes on the podium in Sochi. The 29-year-old showed glimpses of his best in the first World Cup of the season in Ruka, Finland, finishing fifth. After that, Begg-Smith skied conservatively to protect his reconstructed knee, ensuring he’d be in good shape at the Games.
While Begg-Smith is looking for ‘one last great performance’, one of the up-and-coming stars he’s inspired over the past decade is a threat to his bid for a third medal. From Gosford on the NSW Central Coast, Matt Graham is chasing a snowy dream via a beach backdrop. The 19-year-old finished fourth at the last world titles and was fourth again in the season’s first World Cup, one place ahead of Begg-Smith. Seventh at the Sochi test event a year ago, Graham is on the door of a podium finish.
Two Canadians are expected to fight for gold. World champion Mikael Kingsbury and defending champion, Alex Bilodeau, have the best form. Bilodeau made the podium at all six World Cup events he entered this season, winning the last three. Interestingly, Kingsbury was successful in the other three. However, the short landing areas off the two jumps at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park may force the hot favourites to tone-down the difficulty of their jumps.
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