Dale Begg-Smith, alone amidst a field of moguls. Image – Dan Himbrechts
Words – Don St Pierre
Subjective sports make great fodder for the media, spectators and at times officials and coaches and at the moment the question is Should Dale Begg-Smith have won the gold in Vancouver?
Did the judges get it wrong? Did the deafening roar of the crowd overwhelm the judges as Bilodeau skied the course? Was Bilodeau worthy of a 4.9 out of a possible 5 points for turns? Should Guilbaut Colas from France, who qualified in first position, have been penalised so heavily for missing the grab on his bottom air loop? Colas had great turns yet wasn’t able to score better than 4.7 for turns with one judge as low as a 4.5. The questions continue and therein lies the allure of the subjective sport, it allows everyone to be an armchair critic – open to interpretation, subjected to dissection by all who watch.
Personally, this mogul pundit tends to defer to the judges. In our household my lovely wife – former Australian Winter Olympian in1998 and 2002 and World Championship silver medallit Maria Despas – and I know the judges have the best view in the house and once the results are in there’s little that debate will do to change the outcome. Not that there’s a lack of trying!
This morning I spoke to some of my former freestyle skiing colleagues, the mogul coaches in Vancouver who were there at Cypress, on the course, on the night and I raised the questions that are ringing around the media. Some felt Bilodeau was overscored, others thought given his speed the judges got it right. So there you go, dissention amongst the ranks.
Perhaps had Begg-Smith qualified higher it may have helped and perhaps if he skied a little faster that may have helped. The half of a second faster Bilodeau skied the course in did make him look really dynamic and the little, minor, form breaks you can detect in Bilodeau’s run almost make for more excitement.
In comparison Begg-Smith, by being so technically clean, makes it all look easy. The criteria for turns does mention ‘aggressive’ and I would never say Begg-Smith isn’t aggressive in his skiing, it’s just that he does it so well it might beg the question, is this guy even trying?
Then there’s the matter of Bilodeau’s top jump. A double twisting back flip is an impressive opener and it likely also helped the rookie from the USA Bryon Wilson take the bronze, he was the only other skier to perform the double full in finals and complete the course. Due to its difficulty fewer competitors are throwing a double full and those that do perform the jump well stand out. By comparison there were seven competitors who performed the same jump package as Begg-Smith.
Where does all this leave us? I say good on the lot of ’em. It was an amazing finals and my heart goes out to all those athletes who skied with hearts in their throats.