2018 Winter Olympics: Understanding biathlon

Skiing and shooting in one sport

By Dane Sager Kelly - Web Producer

The biathlon is a unique sport that combines cross-country skiing and rife shooting. 

Initially introduced in the 1924 Olympics as the military patrol competition, it first had patrols of four members who had to cross-country ski 25 kilometers, climb 500-1200 meters and shoot rifles. Military patrol eventually evolved into the contemporary biathlon, which has been at every Winter Olympic Games since 1960. Women were first allowed to compete in the Olympic biathlon in 1992.

A biathlon consists of a cross-country ski race and two or four shooting rounds. Pending on the quality of the shooting, extra distance or time is added to the contestant's total. The contestant with the shortest time wins.

The biathlon returns to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, with the event taking place at Alpensia Cross-Country and Biathlon Centre. There are 11 biathlon events at this year's games: five events each for men and women, and one mixed relay event on Feb. 20 at 8:15 p.m.

Sprint

Men's date: Feb. 11, 8:15 p.m.
Women's date: Feb. 10, 8:15 p.m.

Here's how it works:

Skied over three laps, the race section of sprint is 10 kilometers for men and 7.5 kilometers for women. Competitiors shoots twice, once prone and once while standing. For each target missed, a penalty loop of 150 meters must be skied before they can continue the race.

Individual

Men's date: Feb. 15, 8:05 p.m.
Women's date: Feb. 14,  8:05 p.m.

Here's how it works:

For the individual race, contestants race 20 kilometers for men and 15 kilometers for women, skied over five laps. The competitor shoots four times, twice prone and twice standing. For every missed target, a penalty of one minute is added to their time.

Pursuit

Men's date: Feb. 12, 9 p.m.
Women's date: Feb. 12, 7:10 p.m.

Here's how it works:

Athletes' starts are based on their time differences from prior races. Those that ranked higher is prior events get a head start over others.The distances are 12.5 kilometers for men and 10 kilometers for women, skied over five laps. The competitor shoots four times, twice prone and twice standing. For each target missed, a penalty loop of 150 meters must be skied before they can continue the race.

The first one to cross the finish line wins.

Mass Start

Men's date: Feb. 18, 8:15 p.m.
Women's date: Feb. 17, 8:15 p.m.

Here's how it works:

Mass start is similar to pursuit, except all athletes start at the same time. Skied over five laps, athletes race 15 kilometers for men and 12.5 kilometers for women, with four rounds of shooting evenly divided between prone and standing shooting. For each target missed, a penalty loop of 150 meters must be skied before they can continue the race.

The first one to cross the finish line wins. 

Relay

Men's date: Feb. 23, 8:15 p.m.
Women's date: Feb. 22, 8:15 p.m.

Here's how it works:

Relay is played with teams of four, each skiing a three lap run, totaling 7.5 kilometers for men and 6 kilometers for women. Each team member has two rounds of shooting, one prone and one standing. For every five targets, athletes are given eight bullets, however, the last three can only be single-loaded manually. If any target hadn't been hit after all eight bullets are fired, the athlete must race a 150-meter penalty loop for each missed target. 

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