Biathlon (not to be confused with duathlon) is a term used to describe any sporting event made up of two disciplines. However, biathlon usually refers specifically to the winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Another popular variant is summer biathlon, which combines cross-country running with riflery.

Concise history

The sport has its origins in an exercise for Norwegian soldiers, as an alternative training for the military.The world's first known ski club, the "Trysil Rifle and Ski Club", was formed in Norway in 1861 to promote national defense at the local level. Called military patrol, the combination of skiing and shooting was contested at the Olympic Winter Games in 1924, and then demonstrated in 1928, 1936, and 1948, but did not regain Olympic recognition then, as the small number of competing countries disagreed on the rules (see also Governing body, below). During the mid-1950s, however, biathlon was introduced into the Russian and Swedish winter sport circuits and was widely enjoyed by the public. This newfound popularity aided the effort of having biathlon gain entry into the Winter Olympics, where it has later become one of the most cherished sports.

The first World Championship in biathlon was held in 1958 in Austria, and in 1960 the sport was finally included in the Olympic Games. At Albertville in 1992, women were first allowed in Olympic biathlon.

The competitions from 1958 to 1965, used high-power centerfire rifle cartridges (such as .30-06, 7.62 mm NATO, etc.) before the .22LR rimfire cartridge was standardized in 1978. The ammunition was carried in a belt worn around the competitor's waist. With the only competition being the men's 20 km individual, four different ranges and firing distances of 100 m, 150 m, 200 m, and 250 m. The target distance was reduced to 150 m with the addition of the relay in 1966. The shooting range was further reduced to 50 m in 1978 with the mechanical targets making their debut at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Newer electronic targets (similar to mechanical targets) are now used in all major competitions such as World Cups, World Championships, and the Olympics. The targets, using computerized sensors, are superior to mechanical targets as they require fewer officials for recording and reseting the targets and they allow for instant shot recording, needed for live television broadcasts. The mechanical targets were also shown in the 1981 James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only" when Bond was in Cortina d'Ampezzo while a biathlon competition was ongoing.

Governing body

In 1948, the "Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon (UIPMB)" was founded, to standardise the rules for biathlon and modern pentathlon. In 1993, the biathlon branch of the UIPMB created the "International Biathlon Union (IBU)", which officially separated from the UIPMB in 1998.

Presidents of the UIPMB/IBU:
* 1948–1949: Tom Wiborn (Sweden)
* 1949–1960: Gustaf Dyrssen (Sweden)
* 1960–1988: Sven Thofelt, (Sweden)
* 1988–1992: Igor Novikov (USSR/Russia)
* Since 1992: Anders Besseberg (Norway)


The following articles list major international biathlon events and medalists. Contrary to the Olympics and World Championships (BWCH), the World Cup (BWC) is an entire winter season of (mostly) weekly races, where the medalists are those with the highest sums of World Cup points at the end of the season.

* Biathlon at the Olympic Games
* Biathlon World Championships
* Biathlon World Cup

Rules and equipment

The complete rules of biathlon is given in the official IBU rule book (see External links, below). However, the concise description given below, along with the section on competition format, should be enough for a spectator to understand what is going on at a biathlon stadium whether actually being there or at home watching a televised biathlon event.

Basic concepts

A biathlon competition consists of a race in which contestants ski around a cross-country track, and where the total distance is broken up by either two or four shooting rounds, half in prone position, the other half standing. Depending on the shooting performance, extra distance or time is added to the contestant's total running distance/time. As in most races, the contestant with the shortest total time wins.

For each shooting round, the biathlete must hit five targets; each missed target must be "atoned for" in one of three ways, depending on the competition format:
* by skiing around a convert|150|m|ft penalty loop, typically taking 20–30 seconds for top-level biathletes to complete (running time depending on weather/snow conditions),
* by having one minute added to a skier's total time, or
* by having to use an "extra cartridge" (placed at the shooting range) to finish off the target; only three such "extras" are available for each round, and a penalty loop must be made for each of the targets left standing.

In order to keep track of the contestants' progress and relative standing throughout a race, split times (intermediate times) are taken at several points along the skiing track and upon finishing each shooting round. The large display screens commonly set up at biathlon arenas, as well as the information graphics shown as part of the TV picture, will typically list the split time of the fastest contestant at each intermediate point and the times and time differences to the closest runners-up.

Skiing details

All cross-country skiing techniques are permitted in biathlon, which means that the free technique is usually the preferred one, being the fastest. No other equipment than skis and ski poles may be used for moving along the track. Minimal ski length is convert|4|cm|in less than the height of the skier.

Shooting details

The biathlete carries the small bore rifle, which weighs at least convert|3.5|kg|lb, including ammunition in magazines on her/his back during the race. The rifles use .22 LR ammunition and are bolt action or Fortner action.

The target range shooting distance is convert|50|m|ft. There are five circular targets to be hit in each shooting round. When shooting in the prone position the target diameter is convert|45|mm|in, when shooting in the standing position the target diameter is convert|115|mm|in. On all modern biathlon ranges, the targets are self-indicating, in that they flip from black to white when hit, giving the biathlete as well as the spectators instant visual feedback for each shot fired.

Competition format


The convert|20|km|mi individual race (15 km for women) is the oldest biathlon event; the distance is skied over five laps. The biathlete shoots four times at any shooting lane, [Even in English speaking countries such as Canada and the United States each country may use different terms for the same thing in biathlon. For example: Stage (USA) vs. Bout (Canada), Shooting Point (USA) vs. Shooting Lane (Canada)] in the order of prone, standing, prone, standing, totalling 20 targets. For each missed target a fixed penalty time, usually one minute, is added to the skiing time of the biathlete. Competitors' starts are staggered, normally by 30 seconds.


The sprint is convert|10|km|mi for men and convert|7.5|km|mi for women; the distance is skied over three laps. The biathlete shoots twice at any shooting lane, once prone and once standing, for a total of 10 shots. For each miss, a penalty loop of 150 m must be skied before the race can be continued. As in the individual competition, the biathletes start in intervals.


In a pursuit, biathletes' starts are separated by their time differences from a previous race, [To be precise; the pursuit competition start intervals are determined by common rounding to the nearest whole second of the biathletes' time differences from the previous racendash the amount of time each biathlete lagged after the winner to the finish line.] most commonly a sprint. The contestant crossing the finish line first is the winner. The distance is convert|12.5|km|mi for men and convert|10|km|mi for women, skied over five laps; there are four shooting bouts (two prone, two standing, in that order), and each miss means a penalty loop of 150 m. To prevent awkward and/or dangerous crowding of the skiing loops, and overcapacity at the shooting range, World Cup Pursuits are held with only the 60 top ranking biathletes after the preceding race. The biathletes shoot (on a first-come, first-serve basis) at the lane corresponding to the position they arrived for all shooting bouts.

Mass start

In the mass start, all biathletes start at the same time and the first across the finish line wins. In this convert|15|km|mi or convert|12.5|km|mi for women competition, the distance is skied over five laps; there are four bouts of shooting (two prone, two standing, in that order) with the first shooting bout being at the lane corresponding to your bib (Bib #10 shoots at lane #10 regardless of position in race.) with rest of the shooting bouts being at the lane in the position they arrived (Arrive at the lane in fifth place, you shoot at lane five.). As in sprint races, competitors must ski one 150 m penalty loop for each miss. Here again, to avoid unwanted congestion, World Cup Mass starts are held with only the 30 top ranking athletes on the start line (half that of the Pursuit as here all contestants start simultaneously).


The relay teams consist of four biathletes, who each ski convert|7.5|km|mi (men) or convert|6|km|mi (women), each leg skied over three laps, with two shooting rounds; one prone, one standing. For every round of five targets there are eight bullets available, though the last three can only be single-loaded manually one at a time from spare round holders or bullets deposited by the competitor into trays or onto the mat at the firing line. If after eight bullets there are still misses, one 150 m penalty loop must be taken for each missed target remaining. The first-leg participants start all at the same time, and as in cross-country skiing relays, every athlete of a team must touch the team's next-leg participant to perform a valid changeover. On the first shooting stage of the first leg, the participant must shoot in the lane corresponding to their bib number (Bib #10 shoots at lane #10 regardless of position in race.), then for the remainder of the relay, the relay team shoots at the lane in the position they arrived (Arrive at the range in 5th place, you shoot at lane five.).

Mixed relay

The most recent addition to the number of biathlon competition variants, the mixed relay, is similar to the ordinary relay but for the composition of the teams, each of which consists of two women and two men. Legs 1 and 2 are done by the women, legs 3 and 4 by the men. The legs are 6 km with each leg skied over three laps, as in the ordinary women's relay competition.

Team (obsolete)

A team consists of four biathletes, but unlike the relay competition, all team members start at the same time. Two athletes must shoot in the prone shooting round, the other two in the standing round. In case of a miss, the two non-shooting biathletes must ski a penalty loop of 150 m. The skiers must enter the shooting area together, and must also finish within 15 seconds of each other; otherwise a time penalty of one minute is added to the total time. Since 2004, this race format has been obsolete at the World Cup level.

Biathlon venues

World Cup events and World Championships in biathlon have traditionally been held at the following few locations. Due to the complicated shooting range equipment, which absolutely has to work in order to hold successful races, biathlon is a highly demanding sport for organisers.

:* Since 2002, the Veltins-Arena has hosted a special end-of-year mixed team event, now called the "Veltins Biathlon World Team Challenge".


Biathlon events are broadcast most regularly where the sport enjoys its greatest popularity, namely Germany (ARD, ZDF), Austria (ORF), Norway (NRK), Finland (YLE), Estonia (ETV), Croatia (HRT), Poland (TVP), Sweden (SVT), Russia (Sport), Belarus (TVR), Slovenia (RTV), Bosnia and Herzegovina (BHRT), Bulgaria (BNT), South Korea (KBS); it is broadcast on European-wide Eurosport, which also broadcasts to the Asia-Pacific region. World Cup races are streamed (without commentary) via the IBU website [ [ Startseite - ] ] and some of these events are available on the World Championship Sports Network (WCSN). [ [ WCSN - The Home of World Champions ] ]

The broadcast distribution being one indicator, the constellation of a sport's main sponsors usually gives a similar, and correlated, indication of popularity: for biathlon, these are the Germany-based companies E.ON Ruhrgas (energy), Krombacher (beer), and Viessmann (boilers and other heating systems).

Other Biathlon variants

Two common variations on biathlon are "summer biathlon", where skiing is replaced by a cross-country run, and "archery biathlon" (or ski archery), where the rifle is replaced by a "recurve bow".

There have also been summer competitions in "roller-ski biathlon", "mountain bike biathlon" and "orienteering biathlon". "Primitive Biathlon" uses snowshoes and muzzleloaders.

The Boy Scouts of America offers a "Bikeathlon" variant at their national Scout jamboree that mixes BMX biking with air rifle shooting at biathlon type targets, [ [ :: Crosman: Summer House - Bikathalon:: ] ] and Philmont Scout Ranch has recently begun offering a similar activity. [ [ 2007 Itineraries in Brief ] ]

Cadets Canada also offers biathlon to cadets across Canada, with 3 stages; zones, provincial and national. Zone competitions are occasionally, due to lack of snow in some southern areas, held as summer biathlon. A .22 caliber rifle is used at all levels. Races are shorter than world class events. More information can be found at the National Cadet Biathlon Championship website. [ [ National Cadet Biathlon Championship - 2007 - Championnat national de biathlon des cadets ] ]

ee also

Biathlon's two sports disciplines:
*Skiing and skiing topics
*Rifle shooting sports

Other multi-discipline sports (otherwise unrelated to biathlon):
*Nordic Combined
*Modern pentathlon


External links

* [ Event & Competition Rules Authorized by the IBU Congress, June 1998] – The official IBU rule book, with annexes
* [ Biathlonworld.Com] – A cooperation between IBU and EBU; with race results/statistics, TV schedules, live competition results, etc.
* [ Russian Biathlon Union] (rus)
* [ Russian Biathlon Union] (eng)
* [ Biathlon Canada]
* [ Biathlon Alberta]
* [ U.S. Biathlon Association]
* [ U.S. Archery Biathlon]
* [ History of Biathlon]
* [ Veltins Biathlon World Team Challenge]
* [ Biathlon on OLN TV]
* [ Biathlon on DVD]
* [ Biathlon Russia]
* [ Biathlon Ukraine] (rus)
* [ Biathlon Ukraine] (eng)
* []

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