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An Olympic sport since Squaw Valley 1960, the Biathlon event stems from a way of life; hunting for food in winter and a military need to defend land borders in snowy conditions.

Biathlon at the Winter Olympic Games

Quick Links

The Biathlon, Biathlon Links, 4 x 7.5km Relay, Individual, Olympic Greats, Pursuit, Sprint.

The Biathlon

Biathlon as a sport is a test of cross-country skiing and rifle-shooting.

Within the Olympic discipline, the biathlon now has ten events.

Men Women
10km sprint
12.5km pursuit

15km mass start
20km individual

4 x 7.5km relay

7.5km sprint
10km pursuit

12.5km mass start
15km individual

4 x 6km relay

The Biathlon - Sprint event

The sprint is a prologue to the pursuit; the men covering 10km (3 laps of a 3.3 km loop) and the women 7.5km (3 laps of a 2.5 km loop).

During the cross-country ski, with a rifle strapped to their back, all competitors stop twice and have to hit all five targets with five bullets; enduring a ski around the 150m penalty loop for each target missed.

The first 60 to reach the sprint finsh qualify for the pursuit.

The Biathlon - Pursuit event

The pursuit is 2.5km longer (for men and women), with the start staggered depending on qualifying times achieved in the sprint.

In the pursuit, athletes have to stop four times and again hit all five targets with five bullets or endure the 150m penalty loop for each  target missed.

The Biathlon - Individual event

The individual event (15km for women and 20km for men) includes four stops at the shooting targets.

This time, if any of the five targets are missed a minute is added to the total time.

The Biathlon - 4 x 7.5km Relay event

Four team members each cover 7.5km in turn (6km for women).

Each member has two firing sequences but is allowed three extra bullets to hit the five targets; although the extra bullets need to be loaded one by one.

There's also the dreaded ski around the 150m penalty loop, for each target still standing.

Biathlon - Olympic Greats

Germany's Frank-Peter Roetsch became the first biathlete to win two gold medals in one year at the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics.

After making his first appearance in Sarajevo 1984, where he earned a silver medal in the 20km race, Roetsch won the gold medal in the same event in Canada; despite missing three targets. Three days later the German finished first in the 10km race; even though he missed a target again and was forced to ski the 150m penalty loop.

With two gold, four silver and three bronze Ursula Disl has won more medals than any other women in the Olympic biathlon.

In Albertville 1992 and Lillehammer 1994 Disl skied for the German team that finished second in the relay. She also collected an individual 15km bronze medal in Norway. Over to Canada for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics and Ursula Disl collected another bronze in the 15km individual event and a silver at 7.5km; six days later. It was the relay that would bring Disl her first gold medal; after a somewhat hindered start, when she dropped a ski pole.

At the age of 31, in Salt Lake City 2002, Disl failed to win a third medal in the 15km but made up for it by collecting silver in the 7.5km and another team gold in the relay.

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen went one better in Turin 2006 (with silver in the 20km and 12.5km pursuit, and bronze in the 15km mass start), to take his total medal haul to nine; having won gold in all four biathlon events in Salt Lake City 2002 and two medals in Nagano 1998.

Aleksandr Tikhonov, the Russian relay specialist, is the only winter athlete to win the same event four times; in Grenoble 1968, Sapporo 1972, Innsbruck 1976 and Lake Placid 1980.

Winter Sports

Biathlon in the Winter Olympics Bobsleigh in the Winter Olympics Curling in the Winter Olympics Ice-Hockey in the Winter Olympics Luge in the Winter Olympics Skating in the Winter Olympics Skiing in the Winter Olympics

Biathlon Links

International Biathlon Union:
The IBU is based in Austria although the president is Norwegian.

Biathlon Canada:
Blue and red links depicting pages in english or french.

US Biathlon Association:
Latest news and press releases concening the US Biathlon scene.

General Biathlon Links

Allen's Biathlon Page:
A good place to go for more information on the sport. Includes a collection of tips and techniques and links to further biathlon resources.

Biathlon Athlete Biographies:
Large archive of past and present Biathlon athletes, listed by NOC.
The place for readers of German to find out more about biathlon.

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