Dale Begg-Smith made his choice. End of story.
Yes, there's so much man-bites-dog in the possibility that a Vancouver native who competes for another country (one that doesn't fully embrace him) might win a gold medal before Canada's curse breaks. Picture Canada stuck on an Olympic oh-fer, while Begg-Smith celebrates, in his way, a second successive gold medal for Australia in men's moguls on Sunday night. The Los Angeles Times calls it "irony wrapping the Olympics in a bear hug." In other words, send any good juju and karma toward Alexandre Bilodeau.
But should it really be such a huge deal? Begg-Smith's long-ago decision and Canada's champing at the bit for a gold medal are separate issues. On the latter count, it will get better over time. Curling starts this week!
The message is: Don't make Begg-Smith a target when it's look-in-the-mirror time for the host country.
Also, this whole idea that he should have stayed means ignoring the irony that you can't watch 30 minutes of Olympic coverage without seeing a B.C.-born actor who lives in California extolling the province's virtues. Apparently, only Kim Cattrall gets to leave for opportunity elsewhere.
Another contradiction involves our illusion about elite athletes. It's supposed to feel like they're one of us, even as they travel in increasingly stratified circles.
Begg-Smith doesn't connect. He's on his own wavelength. In what might be some small consolation to Canadians, that has kept the Aussies from embracing him. The Daily Telegraph of Sydney asked:
Do the majority of Australians care if his name is in the record books? The residue of Begg-Smith's triumph in Torino four years remains rancid; the stony-faced mogulist shifting on the podium as our national anthem played, then looking entirely ill-at-ease when North American reporters gatecrashed the victory press conference with questions about his murky off-snow affairs. Apart from discomfort, Begg-Smith expressed no other emotion that day. There was no Lleyton Hewitt fist pump. No Alisa Camplin tears. No Mark Webber screams. Absolutely nothing Australia would normally expect from one of its athletes after achieving victory on behalf of his or her people.
Begg-Smith is just a different dude, as his coach Steve Desovich told The Australian:
"He never gets giddy or high and he never gets low. He's so pure in his approach, he never thinks about outcomes." That may not endear him to the public, but it gives him an extraordinary advantage at the top of the moguls course.
Begg-Smith is not lovable. There is no romance in him winning on Valentine's Day – though his lack of interest in making any connection does keep the media in clover.
As far as the choice he made at age 15 to compete for Australia rather than Canada: Please. It was so long ago, and the Olympics are full of athletes whose citizenship is malleable.
That gets lost when the media is more about reaction than reflection. Now imagine the reaction if the enigmatic expat beats Canada to the top of the podium.