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Dawson's search turns up with bronze

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SAUZE D'OULX, Italy -- At some point, Toby Dawson wants to find his parents, the ones who left him on the streets of South Korea so long ago.

People over there have been helping with the search, and several leads have come up, but the 27-year-old put his quest aside for a more pressing matter.

Skiing in the 2006 Turin Games.

"It's very emotional," he said. "I didn't want to know until after these Olympics."

Yesterday, Dawson took care of the task at hand, winning bronze in a men's moguls competition full of sparkling performances and intriguing story lines.

Dale Begg-Smith, a Canadian who switched allegiances to Australia five years ago, continued his recent domination of the sport by winning the event.

And Jeremy Bloom -- whose otherworldly resume includes college football star and fashion model -- failed to make the podium in what may have been his last ski competition. He will now rush off to take a shot at the NFL.

But in the twilight here, no tale was more compelling than that of Dawson, the young man from Vail, Colo. As his adoptive mother, Deborah, said: "It's like a dream come true."

By various accounts, Dawson was left on the street or perhaps outside a police station.

The orphanage assigned him a birth date of Nov. 30, 1978.

That made him roughly 3 years old when Deborah and her husband, Mike, adopted and brought him to the United States after having seen only a black-and-white photograph.

The Dawsons were ski instructors at Vail and Toby, they soon learned, had a natural passion for athletics.

"We had a trampoline in our backyard," said Deborah, who attended yesterday's competition in a shining, gold parka. "I could see him from the kitchen. When he went beyond the window, it scared me but that's the kind of kid he was."

Yesterday's competition began with qualifying on an overcast afternoon when the light was so flat that course workers had to sprinkle pine needles across the snow to give the steep hill of moguls, interspersed by two jumps, some visual definition.

Begg-Smith powered down the slope with the top score and Bloom, though bobbling slightly in the middle section, stood a comfortable fourth.

Dawson advanced to the evening final in sixth place -- within striking distance but just out of the limelight.

Early on among the final runs, Finland's Mikko Ronkainen dazzled, sticking two 720-degree spins to temporarily capture first place.

His performance seemed to inspire one spectacular run after another. Ronkainen held on with the top score, but the six best skiers were still to come.

Dawson went first, nailing his pair of 720s and pumping his fists as he crossed the finish line. The run put him in second.

Begg-Smith skied last. He had been a machine this season, missing the podium in only two World cup events. Yesterday, his technique in the moguls was characteristically precise, his aerials and landings flawless.

His run was good enough for gold, and Dawson had hung on for a somewhat unexpected spot on the podium.

David Wharton writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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