Dale Begg-Smith, our international man of mystery?

Should Dale Begg-Smith win gold in the men's moguls, will the nation back home stand in its slippers on Tuesday morning, with a lump in its throat as the national anthem plays and the Australian flag is raised?

Begg-Smith is Canadian-born. He lives in the Cayman Islands. He has visited Sydney twice in the last two years. He's an international man of mystery, although he's more Ocean's Eleven than Austin Powers.

But he's our international man of mystery. Or is he?

Intelligent. Outrageously talented. Private. Enigmatic. Mysterious. Aloof. These are some of the many words attached to Australia's most successful Winter Olympian, and they still don't come close to solving the riddle of Dale Begg-Smith.

It is why there's every chance you won't have a lump in your throat should he add gold in Sochi to the gold he won in Turin in 2006 and silver claimed in Vancouver in 2010.

After initially giving the media the slip at Sochi airport last week (although this was later explained as the fault of officials, not the man himself) the 29-year-old was specifically asked if he considered himself Australian.

"I view myself as Australian but I live in different areas and move around without trying to get locked down to one place," he said.

But no matter how far, or how wide, Dale Begg-Smith roams, he still calls Grand Cayman Island in the Carribean home.

Begg-Smith and his brother Jason came to Australia in 2000 when he was 16, not because of an abiding passion for the great southern land, but because the smaller ski program allowed them to concentrate on their lucrative internet business.

Not only has it made them rich, it has attracted unwanted publicity.

On the eve of Begg-Smith's gold medal-winning performance at the 2006 games, Fairfax Media revealed his two main companies, called AdsCPM and CPM Media, were associated with spam, pop-up/under ads, spyware and adware.

How Begg-Smith makes his money then and makes it now is his business.

But when he's representing the mogul-loving people of Australia, they have a right to question whether he is one of us.

Our Dale, so to speak. Aussie Dale. Given how much grief we've given England over selecting South African-born Kevin Pietersen in its cricket team, we have to make sure he's the real deal.

Those at the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia are said to be overly conscious about shielding the intensely private Begg-Smith from the spotlight.

His decision to come out of a three-year hiatus to compete in Sochi wasn't shouted to the heavens, but included in the last paragraph of a press release on the institute's website.

OWIA boss Geoff Lipshut did not want to talk to Fairfax Media about Begg-Smith. Requests to speak to Begg-Smith and his long-serving coach, Steve Desovich, also led to a dead end.

It was left to chef de mission Ian Chesterman to answer some questions about our greatest winter athlete that few outside of the Australian team barely know.

"Superior intellect, superior sporting ability, and great business acumen," is how Chesterman describes him.

Sounds like he ticks every box.

"But he doesn't tick the box of playing the media game," Chesterman said. "Is that a crime?"

Well, no, but if he's part of a taxpayer-funded system, a few words here and there would not hurt.

"I accept him for what he is," Chesterman continues. "Sometimes people have forgotten that he's been in the Australian system since he was 15 years of age. Why does Australia take great pride out of his performances? He's been in our system since he was 15. Dale was always an exceptional talent, but he's been developed and nurtured through our systems. We've got every right to be proud of him. Even the most talented 15-year-old doesn't become an Olympic gold and silver medallist without the support around him."

According to those within the Australian team, Begg-Smith is a ripper.

Dry-witted, engaging company, pleasant to be around. He is quick to dispense advice to emerging mogul skiers, and other young athletes in the team.

He might be worth millions, but he's always downplayed his wealth and flies economy class, not business.

You will also hear more than one person describe him as a "pure" athlete.

In other words, he's competing for no other reason than the joy of competing, because he's so abundantly wealthy from his business interests that nothing else drives him.

"He's the purest athlete I've ever seen," oozes Chesterman. "All he wants to do is produce the perfect run for himself. That's his sole motivation. He doesn't seek media attention. He doesn't seek sponsorship support. All he wants to do is be a pure athlete, in the purest form of sport, and put down a clean run. That's what makes him an enigma to everyone else, because they don't know how to deal with this person. He doesn't seek fame, which are so often the cues for so many athletes."

Dale Begg-Smith competes for himself. We may never know if he's competing for us, too.

The story Dale Begg-Smith, our international man of mystery? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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