The PyeongChang Winter Games ended Sunday for everyone involved, but for one Austrian cross-country skier, the conclusion came in devastating fashion.
Teresa Stadlober was in silver-medal position late in Sunday’s 30-kilometer cross-country race with seven kilometers to go. Instead of making a left turn toward the finish, she made a right turn that pointed her toward the route of the first half of the race.
By the time she got reoriented, she had dropped to eighth place before eventually settling into a ninth-place finish.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” Stadlober told the Associated Press. “I took the wrong way, and I did this twice. The second time I wasn’t sure anymore. I had a blackout. I don’t know why I took the wrong way.”
She was well behind race leader and gold medalist Marit Bjoergen, but was in prime position for a podium finish.
To make matters worse, medal winners from the race had the honor of being presented their award in PyeongChang Olympic Stadium during Sunday’s Closing Ceremony in front of all the remaining athletes and delegates and a worldwide TV audience. Instead of participating, she had to watch Finland’s Krista Paramoski and Sweden’s Stina Nilsson join Bjoergen on the medal stand.
“For us, it’s unbelievable,” Austrian sports director Markus Gandler said. “On this downhill there are two sides, the right course and the left course. The right course is the first loop and the left course in the second loop. The second loop is going into the finish area.
“The left would have been the better one.”
Stadlober even got a bit of a scolding from her father, who greeted her with a hug and a lesson at the finish line.
“I cried,” she said. ”He just said, ‘It was not your day today.’ But when you want to win a medal you have to know the track.”
Ummmm. Thanks, dad?
That was a point that Stadlober was surely and painfully acutely aware of in that moment.
It’s a terrible moment for Stadlober and one that will likely be played on repeat in future Winter Olympics.
Just ask Lindsey Jacobellis.