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France's Martin Fourcade and Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen race to finish line in men's biathlon 15 km mass start event at 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

France's Martin Fourcade and Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen (L) race to the finish line during the men's biathlon 15 km mass start event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 18, 2014. Svendsen finished first ahead of Fourcade and Czech Republic's Ondrej Moravec. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (RUSSIA - Tags: OLYMPICS SPORT BIATHLON)

Split-second finishes: The Sochi Games' close races

Win by a nose? Come in by a hair's breadth? Squeak in by a heartbeat?

Closer. Closer. And faster. The Winter Games reminded spectators that world-class athletes are pushing the limits of human achievement — and only microseconds separate a gold from a silver.

And as Olympic competitors and observers know, often they're racing not against their fiercest rivals but against the clock. Then again, that's not always the case during the heats, in which athletes with the best time in their particular pack — not overall — qualify.

Scroll through to find 2014 victories measured in scant split seconds (and feel free to check the math at the Sochi Olympics site).

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