The word biathlon is of Greek origin and means “two tests”. The combination of skiing and shooting used in the sport today is founded on a tradition of hunting, going back over 4,000 years. Its first Olympic run was 1924 to 1948, and in 1960 biathlon was reintroduced at the Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, U.S.
The skiing portion of the biathlon requires fast and physically demanding cross-country free technique racing, while the rifle shooting requires accuracy and control. In the shooting range, athletes must take five shots at a target 50 metres away. The hit area size changes depending on whether the athlete is shooting in a prone or standing position. When in a prone position, the hit area is 45 mm and for standing, it is 115 mm. A missed shot means either one minute of added time or skiing a 150-metre penalty loop.
In the individual event, men race 20 km and women race 15 km in 4 km and 3 km loops respectively. Between in each loop, athletes stop four times to shoot. The athlete with the lowest time, which consists of a combined ski time and shooting time penalty, is the winner. During the sprint, women race 7.5 km (3 laps of a 2.5-km loop) and men race 10 km (3 laps of a 3.3-km loop) – and stop twice to shoot.
The top 60 skiers from sprint compete in pursuit, where they start at intervals based on their finishing times from sprint. Everyone chases, pursues, the sprint gold medallist. In the relay event, one by one, each member of a four-person team skis a leg, tagging the next team member at the completion of his/her leg. And in mass start, the 30 top athletes start together and shoot four separate times.