TORINO: Freestyle: Begg-Smith claims moguls gold; USA’s Dawson nabs bronzeSAUZE D’OULX, Italy – Maybe football really is Jeremy Bloom’s thing.

The two-sport star finished sixth on the Olympic moguls course Wednesday in what will probably be the last stop in a skiing career that forced him to put his football ambitions on hold.

America’s only medal went to Toby Dawson, who finished third, behind silver medalist Mikko Ronkainen of Finland and champion Dale Begg-Smith of Australia, who has dominated this sport the past few months.

Begg-Smith won for the fourth time in the last five competitions, the only exception being a second-place finish in the Czech Republic earlier this month. His score of 26.77 was 0.15 points ahead of Ronkainen, who was one of the best in the world earlier in the decade but had been struggling this season.

Begg-Smith flew higher and was more graceful than anyone on his airs – his skis parallel on the 720-degree, off-axis spin that essentially won it for him on the final jump of the final run of the day.

“I just knew I did what I wanted to do and it was a good run,” he said. “There wasn’t any room for mistakes so I made sure to not have any. It was one of my better runs ever.”

Short-track speedskater Steven Bradbury and freestyle skier Alisa Camplin are the only other Australians to win winter golds, both of them winning four years ago in Salt Lake City.

Bloom was one of the faces to watch in these Olympics. His good looks and a good storyline – he gave up football because the NCAA wouldn’t let him pursue ski endorsements at the same time – made him one of the most compelling figures in Italy.

But his 25-second run down the mountain was pretty average by his standards – a big splash of snow flew up after he landed poorly on his second jump. He nodded knowingly at the bottom of the hill after his score popped up, placing him in fourth, out of the medals with three more skiers to go.

“I knew I had made a mistake,” he said. “I came here to accomplish my goals. I didn’t come here to win any certain color medals. I was so close, you know.”

The next stop on Bloom’s journey will be the NFL scouting combine, which starts next week in Indianapolis. In the buildup to the Olympics, he insisted the journey to Italy was more meaningful to him than the final results.

And in the end, he felt the same way.

“I’m happy with the way I skied and I’m happy with the experience that I had here,” said the dominant freestyle skier of 2005. “So there’s not much to look down upon.”

Fair or not, it still begs the question of whether his plate may have been too full.

Dawson, on the other hand, had pursued skiing with single-minded tenacity during the last four years after he had a self-described meltdown in the qualifying process for the 2002 Games.

This was not about glamour for the South Korean-born, American-adopted 27-year-old, but rather the hard work of improving on the technical side of making his way through the moguls. Turns count for half a skier’s score and Dawson thought he could make himself stand out by going at them more aggressively on his way down the steep, slippery hill.

It made a big enough impression to earn him the bronze, the first and only medal for U.S. men or women in their two days on the moguls course.

Dawson hinted at quite a celebration Wednesday night.

“I don’t want to get myself in trouble, but there’s definitely going to be something going on. I’m definitely going to get in a little trouble.”

Travis Mayer, the silver medalist in 2002, finished seventh and announced his retirement, while teammate Travis Cabral came in ninth.

While the rest of the competitors will move onto the next ski event, Bloom has a different agenda. It includes heading back to the States and trying to get into some semblance of football shape before the workouts in Indy.

With six touchdowns of 75 yards or more during his two-year college career at Colorado, he figures to get at least a look. Still, at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, he’s small by NFL standards, and he’ll have to be at his best during the next few months.

He wasn’t Wednesday, which left him looking ahead almost before he caught his breath at the end of the run.

“It’s great to have that right now – something that’s such a big challenge right ahead of me,” Bloom said.

Olympic men’s moguls finals
1. Dale Begg-Smith, Australia, (4.8, 4.9, 4.8, 4.8, 4.9, 6.45, 6.32) 26.77.
2. Mikko Ronkainen, Finland, (4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.6, 4.5, 6.85, 6.85) 26.62.
3. Toby Dawson, United States, (4.5, 4.6, 4.5, 4.7, 4.7, 6.62, 6.47) 26.30.
4. Marc-Andre Moreau, Canada, (4.7, 4.5, 4.6, 4.5, 4.6, 6.37, 6.23) 25.62.
5. Jesper Bjoernlund, Sweden, (4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4.3, 6.26, 6.11) 25.21.
6. Jeremy Bloom, United States, (4.6, 4.3, 4.2, 4.4, 4.6, 6.10, 5.95) 25.17.
7. Travis Mayer, United States, (4.7, 4.6, 4.6, 4.6, 4.6, 5.20, 5.20) 24.91.
8. Juuso Lahtela, Finland, (4.1, 4.3, 4.3, 4.2, 4.3, 5.95, 6.23) 24.42.
9. Travis Cabral, United States, (4.6, 4.4, 4.4, 4.6, 4.7, 5.21, 5.06) 24.38.
10. Guilbaut Colas, France, (4.2, 4.5, 4.3, 4.3, 4.3, 4.47, 4.47) 23.60.
11. Alexandre Bilodeau, Canada, (3.8, 4.0, 4.1, 4.1, 3.9, 5.44, 5.60) 23.42.
12. Nick Fisher, Australia, (4.2, 4.3, 4.3, 4.4, 4.4, 4.70, 4.58) 23.39.
13. Alexandr Smyshlyaev, Russia, (4.0, 4.5, 4.2, 4.3, 4.2, 4.90, 4.50) 23.22.
14. Chris Wong, Canada, (4.3, 4.4, 4.4, 4.4, 4.3, 3.56, 3.97) 22.88.
15. Christoph Stark, Germany, (4.4, 4.2, 4.4, 4.4, 4.3, 4.67, 4.43) 22.84.
16. Janne Lahtela, Finland, (3.9, 3.9, 3.7, 4.2, 3.9, 4.28, 4.82) 22.65.
17. Pierre Ochs, France, (3.2, 3.5, 3.4, 3.7, 3.7, 4.76, 4.61) 21.37.
18. Walter Bormolini, Italy, (3.6, 3.8, 3.8, 3.8, 3.8, 4.46, 4.33) 21.36.
19. Fredrik Fortkord, Sweden, (3.4, 3.7, 3.4, 3.6, 4.0, 4.21, 4.06) 20.58.
20. Osamu Ueno, Japan, (3.4, 3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 3.6, 3.86, 4.01) 19.54.

Judges: Sonny McKay (TU), United States; Olivier Grange (TU), France; Franz Zimmermann (TU), Germany; Alberto Orsatti (TU), Italy; Monique Clot (TU), Switzerland; Tina Tanaka-Sundequist (AI), Japan; Timo Kanninen (AI), Finland.

The Associated Press

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