Biathlon Explained – Everything You Should Know!

Biathlon questions answered

What exactly is biathlon?

Events similar to biathlon have been around since as far back as the 18th century. The modern biathlon started with the Norwegian military back in 1912. But what exactly is the Biathlon?

The Biathlon takes two completely different sports – skiing and target shooting – and combines them into one exciting challenge. The skiers carry rifles, race across a long distance, and stop to shoot many targets as they ski. Since a biathlon course is so long – up to twenty kilometers – it is an endurance sport. Athletes need many skills to succeed in the sport. You need skiing skills, as much endurance as a runner, and enough calm and focus to succeed at shooting.

The sport has its roots in survival, hunting, and war. People hunted on skis and used them to move around in wars, and this inspires the biathlon. Military ski competitions in the 1700s evolved into the modern event known as biathlon.

Different biathlon events have different rules. There are regular races, sprint races, relays, and other variations. Whoever completes the lengthy race in the shortest time wins, but shooting accuracy is just as important as speed.

Biathlon stages and rules

Racers begin with rifles strapped to their backs and start at the command of a referee. Depending on the event, they might start in groups or might start individually and not race together.

In the biathlon, after traveling a certain distance on skis, you have to shoot a target at a specific distance. Major rules include no taking shortcuts, no intentionally pushing or otherwise affecting another athlete, and no refusing to ski around a penalty loop if you miss a shot. Accuracy is important because athletes are penalized for missed shots. You may have to race around a penalty track or add a minute to your time if you miss. Sometimes, you are allowed to miss a few times without penalty.

The race has two stages, the skiing stage, and the shooting stage. Athletes alternate back and forth between the two during the event. The skiing stage is similar to a regular cross country ski race. The rules are similar, and so are the skills of the athletes, although biathletes may use different skis and ski poles.

During the shooting stage of a biathlon, participants get into shooting lanes and fire at targets. During some races, the shooters can reach the shooting lanes and take their shots at their discretion. In other races, they have to shoot in order. Each time an athlete reaches a shooting stage, they are given five shots, or for some races, only three.

You cannot brace yourself against anything when you shoot – you must stand without support. There are some other rules about how you must hold the gun and what the gun can touch when shooting.

Targets in biathlon are circles 115 mm across, with a smaller 45 mm circle in the center of the target. When standing, anywhere in the 115 mm circle counts as a hit, but you have to hit the 45 mm center if you are lying prone.

Is Biathlon an Olympic Sport?

Is Biathlon an Olympic Sport

Biathlon has been an Olympic sport since 1960. The sport appeared in the 1924 Olympics, but it did not return again until 1960, after which it became a permanent part of the Winter Olympics. There were no women’s biathlon until 1992.

European countries produce the best biathlon teams. European countries won almost all medals for the sport (4 out of 225). Canada and Kazhakstan are the only other countries that have won any medals.

How Long Does a Biathlon Take?

Biathlons are rather lengthy because of how long the course is. Only a few champions can complete a 20KM race in less than 47 minutes. The best competitors at the biathlon world championships complete a race in a little over 47 minutes. At the Olympic races, the best scores are a little over 48 minutes.

The Olympic times have improved very much since the first biathlon. It took 1:33:21 for gold medalist Klas Lestander to complete the race in 1960. Since then, times have improved to 48:22, set by Emil Hegle Svendsen in 2010.

Times are faster for shorter races. Top biathletes can complete a 12.5 km pursuit race in hardly more than 30 minutes. The women’s record for a 12.5 km mass start race is 33 minutes (Tora Berger, 2010) and the 15 km record is 40 minutes. The women’s record has also improved greatly over the decades, as it was 51 minutes back in 1992.

How to get into a Biathlon

First, you want to get in good shape and learn to ski. Those are the basics. It is an endurance sport, so you have to be tireless. Depending on how competitive you are, you may even have to learn to ski fast without getting your heart rate up too much. If your heart is pounding, you won’t be calm enough to shoot well.

If you are already fit enough for long-distance running, you can probably handle it. However, even a long-distance runner might find it too difficult. Biathlon is one of the hardest sports to train for.

Do a lot of cardio and some high-intensity exercise. Your cardio has to be top-notch to be able to do well in this sport. You also need to practice shooting, so get a gun license, learn to shoot, and learn to shoot safely.

You also need a lot of skiing practice. Become an excellent skier before you enter your first event. You might even learn to shoot while your heart rate is up – do something to get your heart going fast before you shoot at the range.

It is easier to find biathlon events in some countries than in others. Usually, you can find a biathlon club or a cross country skiing club that holds biathlon contests. There should be a club you can join if the sport is reasonably popular in your country.

Why are Biathlon Rifles so quiet?

Why are Biathlon Rifles so quiet
Photo by California National Guard

Biathlon rifles are relatively quiet only because they use a .22 long rifle cartridge. The ammunition is relatively small, which makes the rifles relatively quiet.

Biathlon rifles are real guns – a .22 rifle can kill a human or a large animal. However, the small bullets do not produce much sound or recoil.

As long as you do not do it often, you can shoot .22 cartridges without hearing protection. There are safety standards in place to make sure there is no risk of anyone getting hit with a stray bullet.

What do Biathlon Athletes Wear?

Competitors need the proper clothing and equipment to have a chance. They need more than warm clothing. Biathletes have special racing suits, plus special boots and skis.

It would be best if you had proper ski boots with enough ankle support. If you are considering competing in a biathlon, get proper equipment. The boots should prevent your ankle from moving side to side.

You need skate skis to compete in biathlon. Competitive biathletes train using both regular skis and skate skis to become as skilled as possible. Skate skis are a fair bit different from regular skis. They help you maximize glide and are shorter and narrower than regular skis. You can get used to them quickly if you know how to ski.

Your clothing and equipment must match your skis. You need skate ski boots, skate ski bindings, and skate ski poles. Rifles have to be of the right weight and fire the right ammunition.

If you don’t want to buy a racing suit as the competitive athletes use, you still need very warm clothing. You may have to lie down to shoot some targets. Dress as warmly as possible.

Who is the Best Biathlon Athlete of all Time?

Ole Einar Bjørndalen is certainly the best male biathlon athlete of all time. He has won more medals at the biathlon world cup and at the Winter Olympics than anyone else. He has won more medals at the Winter Olympics than any athlete in any sport.

While Magdalena Forsberg is the best women’s biathlon athlete. She won the world cup five years in a row, from 1997 to 2002.

Biathlon VS cross country skiing

The biggest difference is that biathletes have to shoot targets as well as race. This adds to the challenge, as it is not easy to shoot when you are exerting yourself. Furthermore, biathletes always use skate skis when competing. Skate skis are not always used in cross-country skiing. Longer and broader classic skis are often used instead.

Cross-country skiing involves moving across terrain that is rather gentle and moves up and down. Cross-country skiers do not ski down mountains fast as downhill skiers do. It is safer than downhill skiing, but it takes a lot of strength to do.

Biathletes also ski across relatively gentle terrain. They do not ski down mountains and shoot targets as they go. Both biathletes and cross-country skiers have to ski up hills.

Biathlon VS Triathlon VS Pentathlon

Triathlons and pentathlons are completely different events than a biathlon and are not winter sports.

A pentathlon goes all the way back to Ancient Greece and is still part of the modern Olympics. The ancient pentathlon involved jumping, javelin-throwing, disc-throwing, a short race, and wrestling. The pentathlon was seen as good practice for soldiers.

When the modern Olympics started in the late 1800s, the new pentathlon was different. The pentathlon involves shooting, swimming, fencing, horse riding, and longer-distance running. The biathlon, ancient pentathlon, and modern pentathlon all involve skills related to war.