Magdalena Neuner of Germany needed to make just one more shot to guarantee herself an Olympic gold medal.
She held her breath, took aim ... and missed.
One this day, however, her skiing made sure it didn't matter.
Neuner won the women's 10-kilometer biathlon pursuit Tuesday for her second medal at the Vancouver Olympics, after building a commanding lead by shooting cleanly at the second prone position to pull away from silver medalist Anastazia Kuzmina of Slovakia. Marie Laure Brunet of France won the bronze.
Some shaky nerves toward the end made the race closer than necessary.
The 23-year-old Neuner led by 26.5 seconds ahead of Kuzmina going into the final standing shooting, knowing the gold was all but hers. She calmly made her first four shots, before faltering on the last.
"I was very calm before the last station, but on the last shot I was a bit nervous," she said. "I thought 'OK, you will be Olympic champion if you hit.'"
The miss set off a collective groan among the German fans as it meant Neuner had to ski a lap around the 150-meter penalty lap, allowing Kuzmina to pull within 6.2 seconds by hitting all five shots.
Neuner, however, simply upped the pace of her skiing and extending her lead to 12.3 seconds by the finish.
"Normally, if the skis are good and I'm in good shape, then the final lap is my lap," Neuner said. "I said, 'OK, just do it and then you win this gold medal you always wanted.'"
That was never in doubt as Neuner entered the stadium alone, raising her fist to salute the flag-waving German fans as she sprinted down the last straightaway to finish in 30 minutes, 16 seconds.
Neuner and Kuzmina switched spots on the podium after the Slovakian won Saturday's 7.5K sprint ahead of the German. The results from that race carried over to the pursuit, which features a staggered start with the sprint winner going first.
Kuzmina said she never held any hope of catching Neuner after the final shooting.
"My legs were really tired," she said. "I think Magdalena was unbeatable today."
The race was marred by an official error where Sweden's Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek was held up at her start gate for an extra 14 seconds by a race official. Olofsson-Zidek, who won gold in the mass-start event in the 2006 Turin Games, crossed the line in sixth place but was moved up to fourth in the standings after officials shaved those 14 seconds off her time.
Team spokesman Bjoern Folin said Swedish officials initially lodged a protest but then withdrew it.
"The race officials said they'd made a mistake and apologized," Folin said. "There was no reason to take it any further, we have nothing else to gain from it. And Anna-Carin said she didn't think it affected her result."
Neuner started just two seconds behind Kuzmina and the duo skied together until the second shooting, where the Slovakian missed her fourth target and was forced to go around the penalty loop. That allowed Neuner to take a 23-second lead, which she never looked likely to give up.
Helena Jonsson, the World Cup leader and pursuit world champion, had another disappointing race. She missed two targets in the first standing shooting to slip from 12th to 14th.