Biathlon – is a sport that contains multitudes

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What is biathlon? It is a sport that comes from the Nordic countries and combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. This exciting game is included in the Olympics and is really fun to watch because of its dynamics. It is a race, meaning that the game is fast-paced and active. This game is one of the most famous and widely-watched winter Olympic shooting sports. So let us dive into its rules and history.

Biathlon rules

As the name suggests, this sport contains two events – skiing and shooting. Each event is 15 km long for women and 20 km long for men. In between skiing, there are four stops, during which all competitors must shoot five targets with five bullets. Each missed target adds one minute to the competitor’s total time. The penalty might also include doing an extra 150 meters lap or the use of an extra cartridge.

rifle for biathlon

The standard guns used are .22 caliber and must weigh at least 3 kilograms. The biathlon target is situated 50 meters away from the place where competitors must shoot. The minimal length of the skies is the competitor’s height minus 4 centimeters. The targets have a circular shape and change from black to white instantly after being hit.

biathlon target

There are multiple types of this sport:

  • Individual – 20 km individual race for men and 15 for women;
  • Sprint – 10 km for men and 7.5 km for women;
  • Super Sprint – the distance is 4.5 km, was only introduced in 2018;
  • Pursuit – the contestants are separated according to their previous time differences;
  • Mass Start – all contestants start at the same time and the game has 30 starters;
  • Mass Start 60 – the same as the one above, but with 60 starters;
  • Relay – 4 contestants skiing 7.5 or 6 km each;
  • Mixed Relay – the same as the usual relay, only with teams consisting of two men and two women;
  • Single Mixed Relay – includes one male and one female competitor.

There is also a summer version of this sport where skiing is replaced with running.

History of biathlon

This sport type comes from the Scandinavian skiing traditions. Norwegian military held skiing contests which involved shooting at targets at high speed. In the 20th century, Norway still had two types of races – a military contest of 17 km of cross-country skiing and a 30 km one with weapon carrying. 

Modern-day Nordic biathlon is a combination of all the old military contests. The first official kind of this game, which was called military patrol, appeared in the Olympics in the years 1924-1948. Then, the sport was remastered and accepted to the Games again in 1955. 

In 1948, the International Modern Pentathlon Union was formed, which united all the sports in this category. However, in 1993 a separate International Biathlon Union was founded. It officially separated from the UIPMB in 1998.

IBU logo

The IBU logo for this game is a man skiing with poles in his hands and a gun on his shoulder.

The most notable records in this ski shooting sport

The records can be divided into different categories.

  1. The current holder of the best time at the 20 km race for men is Martin Forbade with 30 min 16.9sec. 
  2. Ole Einar Bjørndalen is the owner of the biggest number of Olympic medals in this sport – and this number is the devil’s dozen, 13! 
  3. As of December 2022, Germany is considered to be the best in biathlon training, having a total of 52 Olympic medals for this sport.
  4. Talking about the 2022-2023 World Cup, the best female shooter with the most precision is Ukrainian athlete Anastasiia Merkushyna. She is also the third-fastest shooter in the current season.

As proven by history facts, the sport in question combines a lot of different activities. That is why it is so engaging and popular among sports fans and even just viewers who happened to catch the Olympic Games on TV. It is skiing, racing, and target-shooting all together, which makes it fit the preferences of a wide range of people. If you want to become theoretically professional at this game, we advise you to read the complete official IBU rules and regulations for it. Who knows, maybe you will even want to give it a shot! Holding a gun while riding skis surely looks fun in the pictures!
Also, you will be interested to read about curling stopwatch and ice hockey rules.

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