KRASNAYA POLYANA — French biathlon star Martin Fourcade was denied his third gold medal of the Sochi Winter Olympics as victory went to Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen in a photo finish at the men's 15-kilometer mass start Tuesday.
Svendsen saluted the crowd as he closed in on the finishing line, apparently without seeing Fourcade pull alongside. The Frenchman lunged to get his ski over the line, missing out to Svendsen by less than a centimeter.
Svendsen and Fourcade were given exactly the same time but the tip of the front ski decided the winner and gave the gold to the Norwegian.
Even as his coaches cheered wildly, Svendsen barely celebrated his victory, apparently upset at having come so close to losing the race.
Bronze went to Czech athlete Ondrej Moravec, 13.8 seconds behind.
Fourcade was bidding to become only the second French Winter Olympian to win three gold medals at the same Games, after skier Jean-Claude Killy in 1976.
Norwegian biathlon legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen came painfully close to winning a record 13th Olympic medal, which would have made him the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time.
Bjoerndalen was in the hunt for the medals until the final shooting stage, when he missed four of his five shots and received a severe penalty. He eventually finished 22nd.
Earlier at the Sochi Olympics, Bjoerndalen matched medal record holder Bjoern Daehlie on 12 by winning gold in the sprint, before missing out on bronze by less than a second in the pursuit.
For host nation Russia, Yevgeny Garanichev was among the leaders early in the race. But he missed a shot in each of the final three shooting stages and dropped to fifth.
The mass start was originally scheduled for Sunday but was postponed until Tuesday when thick fog made the shooting range unusable at the Laura Biathlon and Ski Complex.