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Biathlon

Biathlon

The word biathlon is of Greek origin and means “two tests”.  In this case, the two tests are skiing and shooting.  The sport has its roots in snow-covered Scandinavia where an important survival skill was the ability to hunt on skis with a rifle slung over the shoulder.

Check out the Sochi 2014 Biathlon Team

A form of biathlon appeared at the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924 as a team event called the military ski patrol.  The military ski patrol would also be a demonstration event at St. Moritz 1928, Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 and St. Moritz 1948, the same year the rules for biathlon were standardized.  Biathlon would make its official Olympic debut at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.  Women would compete in Olympic biathlon for the first time at Albertville 1992.  There are now five events each for men and women as well as a mixed relay which will make its debut at Sochi 2014.

The sport makes unique demands on biathletes’ bodies.  After skiing fast and hard in cross-country free technique, biathletes must calm themselves to take accurate and controlled shots at targets 50 metres away.  The target size depends on whether the athlete is in the prone or standing position.  In the prone position, the hit area is 45mm while in the standing position the hit area is 115mm.

Take a look at where Canada’s Sochi 2014 Biathlon athletes call home

Events

Individual - Men and Women

The most traditional of the biathlon events features the longest skiing distance, 20km for men and 15km for women. Competitors start in 30 second intervals. Men will ski five laps of a 4km loop while the women will ski five laps of a 3km loop. After each of the first four laps, competitors will stop to shoot, alternating between prone and standing positions. Shooting accuracy is particularly important in this event because there is a one-minute penalty for missed shots. The winner is the biathlete who finishes with the fastest time after shooting penalties are factored in.

Mass Start - Men and Women

The men's event is 15km while the women's event is 12.5km. The entry list is limited to 30 biathletes because there are only 30 spots available at the shooting range where all competitors will arrive at approximately the same time due to the simultaneous start. Entrants will include the top 15 in the overall World Cup standings plus the medal winners from the individual, sprint and pursuit events. There are four rounds of shooting, the first two in prone position and the last two in standing position, separated by five laps of a 3km loop for the men and a 2.5km loop for the women. The punishment for missed shots is to ski the 150m penalty loop. The first competitor to cross the finish line is the winner.

Sprint - Men and Women

The men's event is 10km while the women's event is 7.5km. This is the shortened version of the individual event in which skiing speed becomes more important than shooting accuracy. In this event, the biathlete must ski a 150m penalty loop for every missed shot. Men will ski three laps of an approximately 3.3km loop while women will ski three laps of a 2.5km loop. The laps are interspersed with two rounds of shooting, the first in prone and the second in standing position.

Relay - Men, Women and Mixed

There are three relays on the Olympic program: the men's 4x7.5km relay, the women's 4x6km relay and the mixed relay. In the traditional single gender relays, teams are composed of four biathletes who each do two rounds of shooting (first prone, then standing) separated by three laps of a 2.5km loop for men and a 2km loop for women. The first biathletes for each team start simultaneously and upon completion of their leg must tag the next team member to go on the course. The first team to have its final biathlete cross the finish line is the winner. Each biathlete carries three spare rounds of ammunition which must be used if the five targets are not hit with the first five shots. The spares must be loaded individually by hand. Any remaining missed targets result in having to ski the 150m penalty loop. In the mixed relay, teams are composed of two women who each ski 6km and two men who each ski 7.5km. The starting order for each team will be woman, woman, man, man. There are two rounds of shooting for each biathlete, the first in prone position and the second in standing position. The first biathletes for each team start simultaneously and upon completion of their leg must tag the next team member to go on the course. The first team to have its final biathlete cross the finish line is the winner.

Pursuit - Men and Women

The men's event is 12.5km while the women's event is 10km. This event features the top 60 biathletes from the sprint starting at intervals based on their finishing order and times behind the winner of the sprint race. Essentially everyone chases, or pursues, the sprint gold medallist. There are four rounds of shooting, the first two in prone position and the last two in standing position, separated by five laps of a 2.5km loop for men and a 2km loop for women. The punishment for missed shots is to ski the 150m penalty loop. The first competitor to cross the finish line is the winner.

Canadian Medallists

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FINISH:

ATHLETE:

GAME:

EVENT:

RESULT:

GoldMyriam BédardLillehammer 1994Women's 7.5km Sprint -
GoldMyriam BédardLillehammer 1994Women's 15km Individual -
BronzeMyriam BédardLillehammer 1994Women's 15km Individual -
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