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WORLD SPORT

Begg-Smith breaks Australia's duck

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Flying high: Moguls winner Begg-Smith surveys the artificial snow.

SAUZE D'OULX, Italy (Reuters) -- Dale Begg-Smith confirmed his Olympic billing to snatch Australia's first medal of the Torino Games by winning the men's freestyle skiing moguls on Wednesday.

The Canadian-born event favorite, 21, topped qualifying to go last in the final but he coped with the pressure to earn 26.77 points out of 30 from the judges.

Ex-world champion Mikko Ronkainen of Finland set the pace with an exhilarating run rewarded with silver and Toby Dawson of the United States took bronze.

It was Australia's third gold in Winter Olympics history following their breakthrough in Salt Lake City in 2002.

"It's awesome. I obviously didn't see the other runs so I didn't know if it was a gold medal run but it was definitely one of my best," Begg-Smith told reporters.

Ronkainen was in the gold medal position until World Cup leader Begg-Smith stole his glory in a high quality final under the floodlights on the artificial snow.

Several riders found tremendous height off the air bumps and managed to cross their skis while performing tricks with Begg-Smith producing a 720 degree off-axis spin to win.

Begg-Smith, whose brother Jason was knocked out in qualifying earlier, was born in Vancouver and was part of the Canadian development squad.

However, he moved to Australia with his brother and gained citizenship in order to work with respected coach Steve Desovich.

American contender Jeremy Bloom was hoping to grab an Olympic medal before he jets home for the NFL Combine, a training camp for American Footballers crawling with big league scouts, but he could only finish sixth.

Canadian fans, deprived of supporting Begg-Smith, at least had Marc-Andre Moreau's fourth place to celebrate. Unheralded Swede Jesper Bjoernlund finished fifth.

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