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.
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.