MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – Only few days until the Opening Ceremony in Sochi. The Winter Olympics 2014 in Russia are about to start and countries around the world finalized their teams, so now fans and athletes alike are waiting for the last week to pass before the excitement starts. Australia, a country where many citizens never even have seen snow, surprises with a strong team that is already breaking records, resulting in Australian newspapers raving about “Our strongest Winter Olympics team ever” and Australian national team chief Ian Chesterman describing the team as the “best credentialed” group of Australian winter athletes ever assembled. Downunder will be represented by a record 60 athletes – fifty percent more than at the Torino Games 2006 or at the Vancouver Games in 2010 – who will compete in eleven disciplines in Sochi.
The majority of athletes, namely 21 one of them, belong to the freestyle skiing team, 11 of which are snowboarders. Freestyle skiing and snowboarding always have been areas of strength for the Ozzies and this year is no exception. Four women will be starting in aerial skiing, all of whom have finished in the top four at World Cup level, four men in moguls skiing, all of whom have finished in the top 10 at the world titles, and four women in snowboard halfpipe. Mogul star Dale Begg-Smith is back this year and will lead the charge together with Lydia Lassila and Tora Bright.
After a three-year long break, the Games in Sochi will be the third Olympics for Dale Begg-Smith, who already won gold and silver in the two previous Olympics. With his victory in Torino, Italy, in 2006 he made history as he won the Olympic gold medal by becoming the youngest man to ever win Olympic gold in his discipline. And now he is back – attending only four World Cup competitions, he has made a remarkable return to the sport and has secured his spot on the Australian Olympic team. After the hopeful mogul talent completed his Olympic qualification at the World Cup event at Deer Valley, head moguls coach Steve Desovic declared Begg-Smith was gearing up for “one last great performance” in Sochi. He also revealed that Begg-Smith was deliberately holding back his best form for the Olympics, saying he was still capable of upsetting the Canadian duo of World Cup champion Mikael Kingsbury and reigning Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau.
Dale Begg-Smith was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, where he began skiing at a very early age. Dale trained tirelessly alongside his older brother Jason, and they competed for Canada in various mogul skiing events. At age 16, Dale and Jason moved to Australia, resulting in an involuntary competition break while they had to wait for their Australian citizenship. Even though that break made the transition difficult, it ultimately turned out to be a rewarding decision. They greatly matured as athletes and got to train with some of the best mogul coaches and teams. Dale is a proud Australian and an avid philanthropist, who spends time volunteering with young Australian mogul skiers and has donated to many causes and charities over the years.