KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — The pursuit of two-time Olympic medalist Dale Begg-Smith began before the Sochi Games even started — and not by competitors on a moguls course, but by reporters near the airport concourse.
The 29-year-old Begg-Smith — who is coming off an array of injuries that led to a three-year hiatus — was chased the night he arrived in town. Australian reporters and TV crews tried to get footage of him as he sat in a car before being whisked away, the door swinging shut behind him.
He nonchalantly described the attention as "flattering" following a day in which he lost his luggage and missed his initial ride from the airport.
"People care to see what's going on," the notoriously reclusive Begg-Smith, who was born in Canada but has competed for Australia at the last two Olympics, told a news conference Tuesday.
With good reason. He won gold at the 2006 Turin Games and silver four years later in Vancouver. And while he didn't exactly retire following Vancouver, Begg-Smith didn't really know if he would return, either.
His knee, hip and back were all hurting, leading him to take about three years off to rest his aching body.
As the pain subsided, his desire to compete only soared, which is why he's back on the slopes in Sochi.
"I think I always had in the back of my mind that I would, at some point, want to return," Begg-Smith said. "I figured I'd take some time away, and really work on some physical things, in the gym, to see if I could get the body in shape. If I did, I always thought I'd come back. But you just don't know at that point."
Begg-Smith returned to snow in September and to competition last month, where he finished fifth in a World Cup meet in Ruka, Finland.
He knows he's an underdog in Sochi, especially since the judges haven't seen his style of skiing all that much in recent seasons. But he actually feels like he was more of an outside contender in Vancouver, given that he was on crutches six months before the 2010 Games because of his knee.
"It's like riding a bike — you see that you will perform when you need to," he said. "Then you've just got work your skills, so when you do perform it's at a high level."