SAUZE d'OULX, Italy -- The child was about 3 1/2 years old when the police found him standing just outside the station alone and confused. Certainly, they figured the boy now known as Toby S.C. Dawson had simply lost his way, so they kept him while waiting for his parents to return.
The police didn't worry too much until the first few minutes turned into a few hours. This is how his story began, a little boy abandoned by his parents. The police didn't know his name, didn't know his age. To this day, he doesn't know his real birth date, so they assigned him Nov. 30.
It's what made Wednesday so special, so perfect.
Deborah Dawson was there for her son on the biggest night of his life, as she was some 24 years ago when it couldn't get much worse in an orphanage in Pusan, South Korea. It seemed fitting that she was the first person he embraced when he stepped away from the microphones after winning an Olympic bronze medal in the men's moguls.
"I'm just so thrilled for him," she said. "It's a dream come true for him, for all of us. I know how much this means to him, and what it's meant in his life. It's been wonderful for him. Just to come to the Olympics was a dream come true. It was a culmination of so many years of hard work on his part. To medal is the frosting on the cake."
Some woman, Deborah Dawson.
She and her ex-husband, Mike, were ski instructors in Vail, Colo., when they adopted their first son. They didn't wait long before returning to Korea for another boy, Dawson's younger brother, KC. In no time, Toby was skiing down the mountains and discovering what it means to have a good life.
Naturally, when he first arrived, he was a fragile child. He spent months sleeping on the floor next to his parents' bed, making sure they were nearby. But he always was comfortable around the mountains. Skiing was his escape, his release from the uncertainty and anguish of a little boy. It helped him overcome shyness.
Oh, you should see him now.
Dawson was fearless Wednesday as he charged through the moguls. He was in position for a silver medal after completing two jumps that included 720 degree turns.
Dale Begg-Smith, who was born in Canada and became an Australian citizen, put together a flawless run and moved ahead of Finland's Mikki Ronkainen while pushing Dawson to third.
In the end, Dawson realized his goal and won an Olympic medal.
The event had several story lines before it began. Begg-Smith quit school when he was 15, started his own Internet company and was a self-made millionaire in a few years. Jeremy Bloom was a former University of Colorado wide receiver and punt returner who left football behind in search of a gold medal. He's now leaving skiing behind in hopes of getting picked in the upcoming NFL draft. He finished sixth Wednesday, a spot ahead of Travis Mayer.
"It was nice for me because I didn't have to take all the attention," Dawson said. "[Bloom] kind of picked it up with his agency and everybody around him. It was easier for me to just follow in his shadows and not get harassed too much and hassled, so I could concentrate on my own skiing."
Dawson came through Wednesday with a performance to remember, but it wasn't exactly shocking. He was ranked fourth in the world, hardly a slouch, but he effectively stayed beneath the radar while everybody chased down skiers far more popular. In 2002, he succumbed to the pressure of the Olympics and was gone after the qualifying run.
"Basically," he said, "I choked."
Dawson kept looking at his mother toward the back of the room as he answered questions from the media, soaking up attention that was long overdue. It was a direct contrast to his childhood, when he was a terrific skier but a confused kid. Deborah Dawson was gleaming as she looked toward her son. You couldn't help but think her expression was all too familiar.
Now that his Olympics are over, it's time to move forward. Dawson has become a superstar in South Korea because of his heritage and success. He wants to find his birth parents knowing full well they can't possibly match his own. His name in the orphanage was Soo Chul, and for years he told friends his middle initials stood for So Cool.
"It's very emotional," he said. "I definitely have people searching for me, but I didn't want to know until after these Olympics. I'll be involved with the search. I'm very interested. Everybody wants to see what their parents look like, you know, their birth parents. I want to see where I got my good looks from."
Recently, three South Korean couples stepped forward to say they were his parents, but they backed off when asked if they were willing to have their DNA tested. Funny, nobody wanted him 24 years ago, yet now he has an abundance of parents trying to claim him as their own.
Dawson will intensify his search, and his mother will once again be by his side. She made sure South Korean culture played a role in her children's lives. She wants to share them with the world. Here's the best part: The bronze medal allowed Toby to share her.
Some woman, Deborah Dawson.