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Articles: Biathlon


Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The objective of the sport is for contestants to ski around a cross-country trail system and stop at several shooting ranges to perform rifle shooting in the shortest time possible.

The sport has a long tradition in Norway and was used as an alternative training for Norway military. Until 1984 biathlon was part of a Norwegian government organization set up with the purpose of improving the marksman skills of the participants for the benefit of national defence.

Starting with the 2002 Winter Olympics organized in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, biathlon featured a new pursuit event with distance of 12.5 km (7.7 miles) for men and 10 km (6.2 miles) for women and starting with the 2006 Winter Olympics organized in Turin, Italy the sport featured a new mass-start event was introduced for both men and women.

The first World Championship in biathlon took place in 1958 and was organized in Austria. In 1960 biathlon was included in the Olympic Games and since 1992 women biathlon has been included in the Olympics as well.

Biathlon is very popular in Eastern and Central Europe, being a major winter sport in Russia, Norway and Germany. In fact, Russia, Norway, Germany and Canada are nations with the most medals won in all biathlon competitions and events. International biathlon events include: Winter Olympics, Biathlon World Championships and Biathlon World Cup. Participation in biathlon races is open to athletes from all around the world.

A biathlon race

The basic equipment required in a biathlon race consists of: Skis and wax, ski suit and boots, ski poles, rifle with ammunition and magazines, harness to carry the rifle and front sight and rear sight for a more precise shot. During a race, competitors have to stop at shooting ranges where they have to shoot targets while standing or lying down.

Biathlon has several competition formats like: individual racing, sprint racing, pursuit racing, mass start racing and relay racing. Each competition format has its own set of rules and varies in distances, shooting rounds and penalties for missed targets.

How a Biathlon race begins

The initial positioning of the racers differs according to the biathlon competition format. For an individual biathlon race for example, competitors' starts are staggered, normally by 30 seconds while for a mass start racing, biathletes start at the same time.

Biathlon is a ski race where the total distance is broken up by either two or four shooting rounds in prone or standing position. For each shooting round, the biathlete must hit five targets. Depending on the shooting performance, extra distance or time is added to the contestant’s total running distance/time. Time penalties consist of one minute added to the total time of the race for each missed target while the distance penalties consist of a 150 metres penalty loop added for each missed target that needs to be completed after the shooting. The overall performance and progress of each contestant is monitored by taking intermediate times at several points along the skiing track or at the end of each round. The contestant with the shortest total time wins.

Main rules and tactics of Biathlon racing.

During a biathlon race, contestants are permitted to use all cross-country skiing techniques including classic or skate skiing techniques which are usually preferred being the fastest. At the shooting range the targets are placed at a distance of 50 metres (160 ft). For each shooting round, the participant needs to hit five circular targets with the diameter of 45 millimetres (1.8 inches) when shooting in prone position and 115 millimetres (4.5 in) when shooting in standing position.

The rifle, which weights around 3.5 kilograms (7.7 lb) without the ammunition and magazines, is carried by the skier during the race at all time. The .22 calibre rifle is the international standard in all biathlon competitions. The ammunition must be .22 calibre long-rifle shot made from lead or a lead alloy.

During the race, participants are forbidden to obstruct fellow competitors in any way at any time during the competition. Statistics show that on average, skiing was the more important factor for the World Cup rank than shooting for both genders. That’s why it’s important for athletes to have an excellent physical condition. One important technique that athletes use during a race is to “ease into” a shooting range. Since penalties for missing targets add distance or time to total timing, competitors slow down when approaching the shooting range. This gives them time to focus, control their breathing and rest their muscles before the shooting.

Competing in Biathlon

Amateur skiers that want to try biathlon can join a biathlon club. Most clubs will teach the basics of biathlon and guide you regarding equipment, techniques and upcoming events and competitions. However, biathlon training centres are mostly found in countries where there is a winter season since the sport requires snow.

The international governing body of biathlon is the International Biathlon Union (IBU) head-quartered in Salzburg, Austria. In order to participate in any IBU event or competition, athletes need to comply with a set of regulations. For Winter Olympics, Word Cup and World Championships, athletes need to meet several qualification criteria according to their results and ranking during the current or previous season. This is required in order to ensure that only best athletes participate in those competitions.

Competitors eligible to take part in biathlon events belong in one of the following classes authorized for IBU competitions: Man and women competitions - male and female competitors of minimum 21 years of age, Junior Men and Junior Women - male and female competitors of minimum 19 years of age and Youth Men and Youth Women - male and female competitors under 19 years of age.

Competitors are responsible for bringing their own equipment and that the equipment is in accordance with the IBU Material Catalogue.

The highest professional biathlon competition is during the Winter Olympic Games which is organized once every four years. Other important biathlon competitions include the Biathlon World Championships which is a sporting event held annually with regular season taking place during February or March and the Biathlon World Cup is held annually with season beginning in November and ending in March.

Athletes are allowed to participate to multiple events. The Winter Olympics and World Championships competitions keep a medal table with the overall ranking according to most medals won by each country. For those competitions there is no individual award for athletes except the gold, silver or bronze medals won. However, at the end of the World Cup biathlon season, the athlete with the highest total score for all disciplines is awarded the Big Crystal Globe trophy.

Biathlon betting opportunities

Major bookmakers offer biathlon betting opportunities during biathlon tournaments and competitions like Winter Olympic Games, Biathlon World Championships or Biathlon World Cup and the most popular biathlon bet market is simply the race winner (Outright winner) or the winner of the Big Crystal Globe for the Word Cup competition.