One step turned tears of joy into sobs of disbelief.
The bronze medal the Canadian 4x100-metre relay believed it had won was snatched away at the London Olympic Games Saturday. The team was disqualified because Jared Connaughton stepped on the line of his lane while passing off the baton.
[Slideshow: Heartbreak for Canada]
Connaughton showed courage and maturity by admitting the mistake and apologizing on national television.
"It was my fault,'' the native of New Haven, P.E.I., said during a television interview moments after the disqualification was announced.
"We ran a great race. As soon as I saw the replay I saw I had stepped on the line. The rule is pretty unforgiving. I'm really upset. I'm sorry for costing my teammates a medal. ''
Jamaica, with Usian Bolt running the anchor leg, won the gold medal in a world-record time of 36.84 seconds. The United States took silver in 37.04 and Trinidad and Trinidad and Tobago replaced Canada as the bronze medallists.
At first Canada flashed on the scoreboard in third place. The team of Gavin Smellie of Brampton, Ont., Oluseyi Smith of Ottawa, Connaughton and Justyn Warner of Markham, Ont., celebrated by wrapping themselves in Canadian flags. Warner waded into the crowd to hug his fiancee Nikkita Holder of Pickering, Ont.
Then word came of the disqualification. It was like the team had been slugged in the stomach. Smith and Smellie collapsed to the ground. Tears streamed down Smith's face.
"It's the worst thing in the world,'' Smith said. "We just looked at the board and saw we were disqualified. I don't know what to say.''
It's in moments like this that true character shows. True winners don't always cross the line first.
Connaughton could have walked away. He could have hid. He could have refused interviews.
He didn't. He faced the country and said he was sorry.
"As soon as I saw the replay I had a sinking in my feeling it might be a dq,'' he said. "It's one step. It's tough.
"We don't have the medal to show it, but we finished the race. We showed the world that we were the top-three best relay teams in the world. I take full responsibility because it was my fault.''
The relay team went into the final with the third fastest qualifying time after running a season-best 38.05 in Friday's semifinals.
The last time Canada won a relay medal was gold at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
Connaughton is the only returning member from the 4x100-team that finished sixth at the 2008 Beijing Games.
So far Canada's lone medal on the track is Derek Drouin's bronze in high jump.
The track team's goal in London was three medals.