When she crossed the finish line, she was stunned.
Teresa Stadlober competes during the Women's 30km Mass Start Classic on day 16 of the Olympic Games. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images.
As is often the case with a multi-week sporting event — even one as enthralling as the Olympics — viewer fatigue sets in, so it wasn’t expected that many people tune into the final event of the Games, the women’s 30 km mass start cross-country race. However, an error by the second-place athlete almost an hour into the grueling endurance test would create a dramatic twist that no one, least of all the skier, expected.
Ostensibly on pace for silver medal contention, Teresa Stadlober led the pack behind her as she worked to whittle down the minute-plus distance between her and the leading skier. However, NBC’s coverage briefly cut out. When the broadcast of the event resumed, Stadlober appeared to be entirely alone, having shed both the pack on her heels and, somehow, the skier leading her.
The announcers themselves couldn’t figure out what had transpired, musing, "That's a huge gap, a lot of daylight! Now, where are the Finns? Are they ahead of her or behind? It almost seems unrealistic that she’s opened up that kind of gap."
Stadlober, unable to see the path the leader had taken, veered right to an uphill segment instead of keeping on a straight course. By the time she’d proceeded uphill and turned around, she had ceded her second-place position.
Unfortunately, embeddable video of the bizarre events and the announcers’ befuddled reactions aren’t available, but the recap below offers glimpses of the erroneous turn that cost her a medal and relegated her to ninth place.
Stadlober was at a loss when she finished, telling NBC, "I don't know, I really don't know. 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."
Sure, her folly made for one last great story from Pyeongchang, but there’s little doubt that Stadlober would have rather left the Olympics with a medal than the story of how she lost one.