Last-place finish brings a perfect Olympic moment

Mexico's German Madrazo was carried off by fellow competitors after finishing 115th in the men’s 15-kilometer cross-country event. –ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

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Mexico and cross-country skiing don’t seem like a natural pairing.

But they provided one of the best examples of Olympic sportsmanship on Friday.

Mexican cross-country skier German Madrazo was last across the finish line in the 15-kilometer men’s freestyle event. Madrazo, a 43-year-old who only started skiing last year, placed 115th and dragged himself to the finish nearly 26 minutes behind Swiss gold medalist Dario Cologna.

But with muscles surely burning and lungs certainly gasping, Madrazo was still smiling, relishing his Olympic moment and carrying the Mexican flag for his last several strides and raising it high as he crossed the finish line.

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The stands were thinly populated by then, but a certain group was waiting and watching.

Skiers from Colombia, Tonga, Morocco, and Portugal, all countries where cross-country skiing isn’t exactly the national pastime, all of whom had finished closer to the end of the pack than the start, rushed to embrace Madrazo. Suddenly, they had him up on their shoulders, and Madrazo was still waiving the Mexican flag.

Then, Cologna, nearly half an hour after finishing himself, came over to shake his fellow competitor’s hand.