Doublecross on the hill

SAUZE d'OULX, Italy -- At least Lennox Lewis had the good graces to win his gold medal wearing Canadian colours before pretending to be something he wasn't.

Yesterday, beneath the sun of the Italian Alps, a two-timing rich kid from Vancouver -- an Internet millionaire at that, pulled a double whammy on his homeland.

Not only did Dale Begg-Smith win a gold medal in moguls skiing yesterday wearing Australian colours but in the process, he pushed another Canadian from the podium. This from a guy who grew up in North Vancouver, learned to ski at Whistler and was coached by the same man as Jennifer Heil.

"I don't like that," said Jean-Luc Brassard, a former gold medal winner in the sport. "Good for him, he won. He deserved it. But I don't like the circumstances."

Begg-Smith, according to those who know him best, still lives most of the time in Vancouver, trains most of the time in Whistler, does business most of the time around the world. He became an Australian by convenience.

He needed a country, they needed a skier. Almost everybody was happy.

"I remember him as a 12-year old, him and his brother," Brassard said. "He was impatient. He wanted to be on the national team. He was talented, but we had a good team. There wasn't much room for a young kid.

"But after that, we wanted him to come to our training camps like everybody did. He couldn't come. By then, he was working on his business. He's a smart guy. And when they wouldn't put him on the national team if he didn't come to the national training camps, he went out and found another place to compete."

Funny, to hear Brassard talking about Begg-Smith now. When Begg-Smith was a kid, he and his brother, Jason, watched the Albertville Olympics from their British Columbia home. They decided then they wanted to be moguls skiers. The skier they watched happened to be Brassard.

"It would have been nicer if this was a Canadian (medal)," said Peter Judge, the former coach of the freestyle team and the team leader here. "It is kind of bittersweet. At 14, I saw him around Whistler. The family moved to Whistler to further their skiing, to be closer to the best training they could get."

Canadian training. The way Lennox Lewis had. The way Greg Rusedski had. The way others before have who learned their sport at home and exported their talents for reasons of economic convenience.

"There was no falling out," said Begg-Smith, asked to explain his problem with the Canadian sporting system, and not really explaining much of anything he was asked. "I was very busy. I didn't have time for training camps."

The medal yesterday has to bother Canadians to some degree, but not nearly as much as the nuisance of Begg-Smith's riches. He has made money -- some have estimated his wealth at $40 million -- selling software to companies that spread those unwanted e-mails you receive -- and the pop-up ads that you find on your computer -- some of that is courtesy of the work Begg-Smith has been involved in.

Brilliant he happens to be. Calculating also. And in the moguls world, he is the most gifted in his sport.

The victim of his talents yesterday was a little known Canadian Marc-Andre Moreau. Moreau had skied well, jumped well, was sitting in third place -- and in moguls, they actually do sit in chairs by the finish line if they are in the top three positions -- and had to relinquish his chair after Begg-Smith's winning score was posted.

"I feel real bad for Marc-Andre," Judge said. "He did a great job. You could say there's a bitter irony in this."

Said Moreau: "I knew when he was coming down that that was it for me," he said. "I was very happy with what I did."

The winner, in the end, picked his country and abandoned ours. He has gold and riches and a personality that makes Eric Lindros seem like the Good Humour man.

The bronze-medal winner, Toby Dawson of Colorado, was abandoned as an infant in Korea, adopted by American parents. His was a story everyone could feel good about.

The same couldn't be said of Dale Begg-Smith, dour winner with an Australian team jacket but no Australian accent.