Swedish biathlete Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek was supposed to start Tuesday's 10-kilometer pursuit seven seconds behind the racer directly in front of her. (The event used a staggered start.) But seven seconds passed and nothing. Seven more seconds passed and nobody told Olofsson-Zidek to start. It wasn't until 14 full seconds had elapsed that the biathlete began her race.
Those 14 seconds caused Olofsson-Zidek to finish in sixth place, but when race officials realized the error they shaved that time off her result, which put the Swede in fourth place. With her adjusted time, Olofsson-Zidek was 11.1 seconds away from a bronze medal.
Considering the error, Olofsson-Zidek was remarkably upbeat after the race. She acknowledged that the late start bothered her on the first lap but said she then settled down and ran a "very good race" with which she was "satisfied." When asked whether she could have sneaked in for the bronze if not for the slip-up, Olofsson-Zidek said, "I don't know. I doubt it."
There's so much talk in sports about what defines sportsmanship. We think of post-game handshakes and not playing dirty as the hallmarks of a sportsman, but it's really little things like this that should define athletic integrity. Olofsson-Zidek has every right to be angry. She could have complained that the error affected her so much that it ruined her race. She could have pressured the Swedish team to keep up its protest (which was dropped after her time was retroactively lowered). She could have gone on TV and demanded a bronze medal.
But she didn't. She realized that, in all likelihood, she was the fourth-best biathlete in the race, so she took it in stride and didn't point fingers. And for that, she's a champion.