Outstanding achievement soured by selfish Aussies

16 February 2010

Written by: Lawrie Zion

The Australian ski officials should have never opened their big fat gobs.

They have soured a wonderful achievement by a man who can now safely say he knows how Cathy Freeman felt in 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Canada’s Alexandre Bilodeau has achieved what no other Canadian had done before him. Win a gold medal on home soil. Bilodeau’s final run in the Men’s Moguls final at the Vancouver Winter Olympics yesterday was judged the best run of the day and it was enough to edge out Canadian-turned-Australian Dale Begg-Smith and America’s Bryon Wilson to win the gold.

Begg-Smith, the number one ranked moguls skier in the world, produced a near flawless final run. His turns were faultless, he landed his jumps perfectly and he produced an exceptionally quick time. Begg-Smith’s performance was so convincing that it scored a very high 26.58, placing him first with three athletes still to run.

Then it was Bilodeau’s turn. Going into his final run, he had the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Canada expected him to break the famous drought and win gold. Remind you of Cathy?

Under enormous pressure, Bilodeau stepped up to the plate and produced a run, according to the judges, that surpassed Begg-Smith’s performance. The Canadian’s score of 26.75 was enough for him to claim his country’s first gold medal on its own shores. A phenomenal achievement.

Unfortunately, this is when Australian ski officials unnecessarily voiced their opinion. Begg-Smith’s long time coach, Steve Desovich, basically accused the judges of favouring the hometown hero and saying that the 8000-plus crowd had a major influence in the result.

‘Imagine if it was in Australia – an equivalent situation,’ Desovich said. ‘Maybe that would tip it a little bit the other way.’

Australia’s performance director Geoff Lipshut then decided to let the world know his thoughts on the matter, saying that the judges had been extremely generous towards Bilodeau.

‘My own opinion is that probably Alex is not capable of a 4.8 or a 4.9 (on his turns) … because 5 is a perfect score,’ Lipshut said.

Come on gents, move on. When sport is judged by neutral parties, the only opinion that matters is the opinion of the judges themselves. No one else’s.

By publicly complaining, Australian athletes and officials have now carved up a reputation of being a bunch of sore losers. It is a total misrepresentation, but unfortunately that is the sticky situation that Besevich and Lipshut have put our athletes and country in.

Nothing should have ever been said, so hopefully the story ends here and now.

Begg-Smith’s disappointment was evident. As Bilodeau stood on top of the podium delighted by his heroics, it was hard not to notice the Australian’s lack of emotion next to him.

We will never know Begg-Smith’s true feelings on the matter because he is a humble man who gives very little away in the public domain. But if he were to be judged by his body language, he was shattered because he thought he had done enough to become the first Australian ever to win back-to-back gold medals at the Winter Olympics.

But Begg-Smith, being the class act that he is, will pick himself up, dust himself off and prepare as hard as he can to try and win back that gold medal at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Ben Waterworth is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. He also writes regularly for upstart about AFL and cricket and blogs at A short sport thought