The Sochi Network

Biathlete’s cocky celebration almost costs him gold

The photo finish from the men's biathlon mass start

Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway claimed his third Olympic biathlon gold in astonishing style on Tuesday - but he very nearly ended up with a second Olympic silver instead.

The 28-year-old was involved in a fierce battle to the line with France's Martin Fourcade - biathlon's star of the Games so far, with two gold medals to his name already - and he was understandably flooded with relief as he finished. Unwisely, however, he decided to show that relief by punching the air with both arms a yard out from the finish - and very nearly allowed himself to be overtaken by his rival, who'd made a desperate lunge for the line.

The photo finish picture on this page shows exactly how close things were. Biathlon rules state that whichever athlete's ski bindings cross the line first is the winner - to stop competitors using extra-long skis to edge rivals on the line, we suppose - and a matter of a couple of inches separated Svendsen from Fourcade.

So close was the race, in fact, that they both ended up with the same time - and the TV caption first announced Fourcade as the winner before the photo cleared things up.

Svendsen refused to admit that he'd done anything wrong.

"It might have looked like I could lose gold, but I had good control over him. I knew I would get gold," he said.

"It looked closer than it was. I looked at the finish photo and was surprised how close it was."

Fourcade refused to be downhearted when asked if he was not fed up of losing to Svendsen in a photo finish - a scenario that has happened before.

"I think he's more tired of seeing me win than I'm tired of him beating me in the sprint," said the Frenchman.

"I'm not going to cry because I was beaten in a sprint by one centimetre by my greatest rival. I'm very happy with my silver medal."

Biathlon - Winter Olympics Day 11

Svendsen is far from the first athlete to almost come a cropper with a cocky celebration on the line, of course.

Most famous of the lot is American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, who blew a certain gold medal in the snowboard cross race at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin as she performed a celebratory trick over one of the final jumps - only to crash upon landing, and up missing out.

While Jacobellis's showboating was bad, it is at least understandable in the sense that performing tricks over jumps is second nature to snowboarders. The same can't be said of Iron Man contestants, who normally crawl over the line after finishing a 3-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26-mile running. Wild celebrations tend to get left for later.

Unless, that is, you're France's Jeremy Jurkiewicz of France, who very nearly blew a race last year by fist pumping, dancing and whooping his way up the final 50m. Only the magnanimous gesture of the athlete close behind him - slowing down before the line to allow Jurkiewicz to go ahead of him - saved the Frenchman's blushes.