What's it all about?
Playing two sports at once can be fun, right? How about toboggan bowling? Or maybe ski archery? Wait, that's actually a real thing. If you think this sounds like fun, then you might find biathlon pretty cool too.
How it's played
The sport: The biathlon is two events at once — the skiers race and then take breaks for shooting rounds.
The events: There are 11 men's and women's events in biathlon, including sprint, individual, pursuit, mass start, and relay. (See pictures below.)
The equipment: Two pieces of wood on their feet and some poles for the skiing part. But there's also target shooting, so they need a rifle as well.
The strategy: Endurance is key. It's a long race, so athletes need to pace themselves and be ready to hit those targets during the shooting rounds.
The points: If they miss a shot, additional time or distance can be added to a skier's total. So even if they come in first, they might not win gold.
The athletes: Biathletes have to be super fit in order to cross-country ski for long distances. They also need to be calm, focused marksmen who can accurately shoot small targets.
Did you know? The word biathlon comes from the Greek word two tests. Which makes sense since biathlon joins two sports — skiing and shooting.
Things to watch for
- In the sprint event, there are two shooting sessions of five shots each — one lying down and one standing up.
- For every missed shot, the biathlete has to complete a penalty lap of 150 metres.
- That means they would have to ski really fast to make up for the lost time!
- A continuation of the sprint event and held the next day.
- Biathletes start at timed intervals starting with the winner of the sprint.
- Because there are still penalty laps, athletes who did poorly the first day can catch up during the pursuit and even win.
Steady wins the race
- The individual is the longest and most challenging of the races at 15-20 kilometres and four shooting sessions.
- Athletes don't have to be the fastest to win.
- They can be slow but be more accurate in their shooting to make up the points.
Biathlon started in the snow-covered forests of Scandinavia, where people would hunt on skis.
The targets are 50 metres away from the athletes, whether they are shooting from a standing or lying down position.
Biathletes can't leave the mat with a loaded rifle or they are disqualified.
If a biathlete shoots at the target of another biathlete (it happens!), the shot is counted as a miss.
Biathletes have to shoot in the right order depending on the event — lying down or standing first. If they do it in the wrong order, all shots are misses.