Every four years, when the Winter Olympics headlines the February sports lineup after the Super Bowl, the sport of Biathlon finally gets its time in the limelight.
Biathlon combines cross country skiing and incredibly accurate rifle shooting to form one of the Winter Games most unique sports. And that uniqueness is usually met with a lot of polarity from first time viewers of the sport on Twitter. The unorthodox combination of sports has viewers raving about the superhero-like breath control each competitor has or asking "What the heck is this and why is it an Olympic sport?"
So what is Biathlon?
Unlike its name suggests, Biathlon is not that closely related to the Summer Olympic sports Decathlon, Heptathlon and Modern Pentathlon - each a collection of multiple track & field events - or Triathlon - a swimming, biking, and running race. In fact, Biathlon might be the exact opposite of those sports, taking place on the snow and involving high precision rifle shooting.
Biathlon in a nutshell is a cross-country ski race that includes multiple checkpoints for skiers, where they have to stop, remove an air rifle from their back and shoot at targets from a standing or laying position, before packing up and continuing the ski race.
What are the origins of Biathlon?
The sport of biathlon was originally created in 1758 by a Swedish priest, Nils Erik Hemmingsen, who wanted to create a winter sport that was both challenging and entertaining. Hemmingsen’s original concept was to have athletes race on skis over a distance of 12 km, but the race eventually evolved into the biathlon we know today.
Why is Biathlon an Olympic Event?
Biathlon has been an Olympic event since the 1996 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The biathlon events are a part of the Winter Olympic Games because they combine two different sports- skiing and shooting - and the sport is extremely popular in Europe.
The International Biathlon Union (IBU), headquartered in Germany, is responsible for governing the sport worldwide, and oversees competitions at all levels. The biathlon events at the Olympics are very competitive, and athletes from around the world compete for a chance to medal.
What does a biathlon race consist of?
The essential components of biathlon are skiing, shooting, and racing. Skiers must cover a distance of 12 km while shooting at targets located at certain intervals along the course. The first athlete to reach the finish line, with the best marks after shooting all of the targets, wins the race.
How is a biathlon race scored?
A biathlon race is scored by taking into account the skier’s time to complete the race, the number of targets hit, and the accuracy of those shots. The first athlete to cross the finish line is declared the winner.
What kind of rifle and ammunition is used in Biathlon?
The most basic description of the equipment is that it’s a .22 caliber rifle with five-round magazine. It may look a lot like a regular old rifle, but Olympic biathlon rifles have some very important differences.
To begin with, they don’t have magazines.
Instead, biathlon rifles load from the top with clips and must weigh at least 3.5 kg (or 7.7 pounds).
What size are the targets in Biathlon?
First, the athlete shoots from the standing position, then from the prone position.
In both cases, the targets are placed 50 meters (164 feet) away.
The targets are smaller (45 millimeters, 1.77 inches) for the prone portion than for the standing portion (115 millimeters, 4.52 inches).
In what countries is Biathlon most popular?
Biathlon is most popular in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. However, the sport is rapidly growing in popularity across Europe and North America.