The biathlon combines the endurance of cross-country skiing and the precision of marksmanship. Racers ski across rugged terrain for miles, then pick up a rifle and fire at targets with a steady hand.
Prehistoric rock painted in Norway depict hunters on skis.
Scandinavian armies had ski patrols to defend their countries.
The first biathlon competition was in 1767 at the Swedish-Norwegian border between border patrol units.
The cross-country skies are well waxed and polished which must be as tall as the racer. The poles are longer that those used in alpine skiing.
The rifle, weighing up to 7.7 pounds, is slung over the racers shoulder. It is illegal to equip it with a lens or scope. The targets, 50 meters from the firing line, are black steel disks that flip down when hit. They measure 115 millimeters for the standing position and 1 3/4 mm for the prone position.
In the Winter Olympics there are men's and women's singles and relay team events each with their own requirements:
Sprint - women race 7.5km and men race 10km. Racers stop twice and must hit all five targets with five bullets. For each target missed, racers take a lap around the 150m penalty loop. The top 60 finishers of this competition qualify for the pursuit.
Pursuit- racers start at intervals based on their finishing time in the sprint competition. Women race 10km and men race 12.5km. Racers stop four times and must hit all five targets with five bullets. For each target missed, racers take a lap around the 150m penalty loop.
Individual - women race 15km and men race 20km. All racers stop four times and must hit all five targets with five bullets. For each target missed, one minute is added to the overall time.
Relay - is a team event in which four-person teams tackle four 7.5km legs for a total of 30km. It begins with a mass start by the first skiers of each team. Each team member has two firing sequences and is allowed three extra bullets (a total of eight) to hit five targets, yet must load the three extra bullets one by one. For each target left standing, racers ski a lap around the 150m penalty loop.
Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff