The Sochi Olympics medal counts and stories of triumph can obscure the commitment of low-profile athletes. They don’t play “Here’s to the Losers” on the winner’s podium for a reason. However, Peru’s Roberto Carcelen, the injured cross-country skier who gutted out a last-place finish in the men’s 15-kilometer classic race, found quite a reception when he arrived at the finsh line, Deadspin reports. Among those waiting to congratulate him was Dario Cologna, the Swiss gold medalist who waited 30 minutes for Carcelen to finish.
A gutsy performance by the Peruvian
Roberto Carcelen’s tough Sochi Olympics began several weeks before the cross-country race took place. Reuters reports Carcelen, who is the first Peruvian to qualify for and compete in a Winter Olympic Games, broke two ribs during training in late January, which put his appearance in the race in jeopardy.
At the same time, Carcelen came down with a bad cold, making his chances to place in the 15-kilometer classic even more in question. Visibly ailing and some 28 minutes off Cologna’s winning pace, Carcelen grabbed a Peruvian flag from the stands before crossing the finish line. Only then did he see the gold medalist waiting to congratulate him.
The intensity of Olympics competition often takes precedence over the immense amount of respect the athletes have for one another. There are times throughout the games when you can see representatives from different countries drop their guards and celebrate an opponent’s majesty. Cologna’s warm greeting of Carcelen represented that spirit in its purest form.
The sheer length of time Cologna waited for Carcelen to finish is worthy of note. Nepal’s Dachhiri Sherpa, who predicted he’d place last in the cross-country skiing event, actually finished 10 minutes ahead of Carcelen, leaving the Peruvian alone on the course for the duration. At the final stretch, the crowd went wild to welcome home Carcelen, who carried the Peruvian flag in the Sochi Opening Ceremony.
Cologna, the highly decorated Swiss skier who also won gold in the 15-kilometer classic at the 2010 Vancouver Games, joined Sherpa in welcoming Carcelen at the finish. Carcelen told Reuters his goal was to inspire Peruvian children to take up skiing. The 43-year-old announced it would be the end of his skiing career.
Dachhiri Sherpa, the 44-year-old skier from Nepal who had to take off from his job as a bricklayer to compete, told Reuters he also wanted only to inspire young people in his native country to feel the Olympic spirit.
“That spirit is in my heart,” Sherpa told Reuters. In one fine moment at Sochi, three Olympians reminded the world how beautiful that spirit can be.