The biathlon began in 1767 as a Scandinavian military exercise. The first time biathlon showed up was in the rules of 1955. In 1957 it officially became a sport. The first organized competition took place in Norway, 1776. They were team events, but no individual competitions.
This sport combines cross country skiing with target shooting. It also involves two activities, hunting and winter warfare. Biathlon was originally only for men, but now it is also for women.
The 20 k.m. individual race is the oldest biathlon competition. The course had five sections. The competitor must stop at four areas to shoot at an electronic target. Each shooter must go through a series of shots in different positions: prone, standing-prone, standing with no rifle support. The target is 50 m away. Big bore rifles are used to do the shooting. Every time the target is missed, one minute is added to the competitor's time. Whoever finishes with the least time wins.
There is also a sprint competition that covers 10km. This competition is exciting because the competitors race, shoot from a prone position at 3km and shoot from a standing position at 7km. If the shooter misses, s/he must cover a 150m handicap loop. This takes approximately 15-20 seconds to do, so shooters do not want to miss the target! This race takes about 23-24 minutes to complete. The winner is the skier/shooter with the best time.
Not all events are individual. There is a relay competition made up of four team members. Each member has to ski 7.5km, fire one time prone and one time standing. This race starts with all the first skiers leaving together in a big crowd. They often get to the first shooting area together too! Like the sprint, if the shooter misses 5 targets, s/he has to cover a 150m handicap loop. The best teams take about 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete the course.
There is also
a team competition that is made up of 4 members who must ski 10m each as a group.
The conditions are similar to the sprint competition except that two skiers
shoot from the prone position and two from standing. The teams start at
1 minute intervals and after each lap the team must reach the shooting area
as a group. Again, if shooters miss 5 targets, a
handicap loop must be taken, but this time by both skiers (either prone or standing
whichever one missed). Because of this standings often change throughout
this competition. The team must cross the finishing line as a group.
In The Olympics
The 30 k.m.
relay was added to the Olympics in 1968, the 10 k.m. sprint was added to the
Olympics in 1980.
In 1992 the women's event in the biathlon was added to the Olympics.
The International Biathlon Union has submitted a new event for the 2002 Olympic games in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is called pursuit competition. This competition takes about 30 minutes to complete and includes about 60 athletes at the start. Like other events the competitors have to ski and shoot from different positions. They also have to take handicap loops for target misses. The difference in this event is that the shooting occurs at 2m intervals. This allows athletes who are good shooters to take the lead or score better.
As of March 19, 2000 the top five biathletes in the world are:
MEN: Raphael Poiree (France), Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (Norway), Sven Fischer (Germany), Pavel Rostovtsev (Russia) and Frank Luck (Germany)
WOMEN: Magdalena Fursberg (Sweden), Olena Zubrilova (Ukraine), Corinne Niogret (France), Galina Koukleva (Russia), and Andrea Henkel (Germany)