Peruvian cross-country skier finishes 40 minutes behind, greeted at finish line by gold medal winner

Jay Busbee
Fourth-Place Medal
Cross-Country Skiing - Winter Olympics Day 7
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SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Roberto Carcelen of Peru competes in the Men's 15 km Classic during day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

There's no award for "direct opposite of a gold medal"— the technical term is "dead freaking last" — but there's a way to win in that position regardless. Roberto Carcelen of Peru, racing with a fractured rib, finished in last place in the men's 15K classic cross country event, but did himself and his country proud regardless.

Dario Cologna of Switzerland won the gold with a time of 38 minutes, 29.7 seconds. Carcelen was nearly a half-hour behind at one hour, six minutes, 28.9 seconds. But as he crossed the finish line, 10 minutes after the closest finisher, he carried Peru's flag, just as he'd done in the Opening Ceremony.

Cologna, the gold medal winner, and others were there to congratulate him.

What a great Olympic moment.

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Carcelen has a fascinating story: as a teen, he was a semi-pro surfer in his native Peru. He didn't even strap on a pair of skis until age 34. He met his wife, a Microsoft executive, online and moved to Seattle to be with her.

He fell in love with skiing and managed to become Peru's first-ever Winter Olympian in 2010. Just three weeks before Sochi, he injured his ribs in training, and an Austrian doctor informed him that he likely wouldn't be able to compete. Carcelen decided to press onward regardless, and set himself a goal: just finish.

He knew he was in for a fight: "I'm going for it, it will be a long and painful race," the 43-year-old Olympian said beforehand. "This is one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced."

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He met the challenge, and did so with honor. Well done.

“Everyone says to me, ‘Oh, you’re so lucky.’ I don’t believe luck exists,” Carcelen said a few weeks before the Games. “It’s all about how you approach life.”

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