Attention may not be his thing but reclusive moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith wryly suggested he was flattered by the attention his midnight airport escape had garnered.
Apologies came thick and fast from Australia Olympic team management on Tuesday after a bizarre incident in which media were led to various terminals before the notoriously taciturn Begg-Smith headed for the hills in a waiting vehicle.
But, as is so often the case with the 29 year-old, it was water off a duck’s back.
“I guess it was flattering that people cared to see what’s going on,” he said drolly about the incident which played out more like a current affairs expose than a regulation Olympic meet and greet.
Australian chef de mission Ian Chesterman described Begg-Smith as an “inadvertent victim” in the confusion of his airport departure while Olympic Winter Institute boss Geoff Lipshut said it was “a very poor decision of mine to actually let Dale leave.”
“It wasn’t a plan to be deceitful in any way, it was just a set of circumstances on the night,” he said, insisting that the three-time Olympian’s bags had gone missing.
In a rare interview on Tuesday Begg-Smith also opened up on his return to the sport after a three-year hiatus.
“I kind of saw the (Australian) team improving and you just kind of get the itch when you see the Olympics coming up,” said Begg-Smith who conceded he was physically wrecked after his silver medal performance in Vancouver four years ago.
“I think I always had in the back of my mind that at some point I would want to return.”
Begg-Smith said he’d been keeping fit over the last few years but had spent little time in Australia, basing himself mostly in North America and the Cayman Islands.
Going against Begg-Smith and his tilt at becoming Australia’s first three-time Winter Olympic medallist is the strong contingent of skiers from the land of his birth, Canada.
Between them 2010 Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau and teammate Mikael Kingsbury have won 28 of the last 49 World Cup events.
And with that dominance has come some extra attention from the scorers, judged snow sports tending to favour those with a recent reputation of excellence in their craft.
“It’s human nature to get used to certain guys doing well and starting to like their style of skiing or whatever it may be,” said Begg-Smith who was also dismayed that judges now seem to favour the jumps part of moguls skiing above the more important turns.
“It does matter to continuously do well over time and obviously it has helped me in the past so I’ll just try to overcome that.”