The runners sprinted down the stretch during the 10,000-meter World Championships race in Beijing. American Molly Huddle neared the finish line. Just steps away from a bronze medal, she eased up, raising both of her arms in triumph — just as her countrywoman Emily Infeld ducked across the line in front of her.
There was a moment of confusion at the finish line, and then realization dawned on Huddle's face. She buried her head in her hands as the American flag was draped over Infeld's shoulders.
"She got this once-in-a-lifetime moment, and I feel like it slipped through my fingers, so it's frustrating," Huddle said of Infeld in the post-race television interview, according to the Elmira Star-Gazette.
Describing the final seconds of the 6.2-mile race, Huddle said, "it's painful to watch."
Huddle's mistake is just one of the many cringe-worthy episodes in the long saga that is athletes celebrating too early.
Last year, Utah wide receiver Kaelin Clay celebrated a long touchdown reception against Oregon, dropping the ball and jumping up and down with his teammates. But unfortunately for the Utes, Clay had let the ball go before he actually crossed into the end zone. While he was celebrating, a player from the opposing team recovered the fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.
Thinking he had won the Tour of California last year, Spanish cyclist Eloy Teruel did a victory double fist-pump at the finish line. In reality, he had one more lap to go. Though the announcers and spectators tried to warn him, Teruel was too busy celebrating to heed their yells, and Slovakia's Peter Sagan ended up winning the stage.
During a penalty shoot out between two Moroccan soccer teams, goalkeeper Khalid Askri blocked a shot and immediately began to celebrate, turning to the stands and kissing his jersey. In his glory, he missed the ball trickling across the goal line thanks to some serious backspin. The referee signaled a goal, and Askri's team went on to lose the shootout 7-6.
After hitting what was believed to be the go-ahead home run for the single-A Delmarva Shorebirds in July, Elier Leyva jogged around the bases to waiting high-fives and congratulatory back slaps from his teammates. But in the excitement, he somehow failed to step on home plate and was credited with only a triple. The Shorebirds went on to lose in extra innings.