What's it all about?
What happens when you combine two ice cream flavours? Or your two favourite pizza toppings? Magic, right? Well that applies to sports sometimes too. Take one part cross-country skiing, and one part rifle shooting, and that’s para-biathlon in a nutshell.
How it's playedCarousel with 7 slides.
The sport: The para-biathlon is two events at once — the skiers race and then take breaks for shooting rounds. The main difference from Olympic biathlon is that para-athletes must always shoot from a lying down position.
The events: Events are broken into sprint and long-distance races of varying lengths. Each of those require a combination of cross-country skiing and target shooting. Athletes are divided into different classifications based on their specific impairment.
The equipment: Various types of skis and ski poles tailored for para-biathletes, and of course, a rifle for shooting those pesky targets.
The strategy: This event is really about endurance. And it’s hard to shoot a rifle when you’re panting for air, so athletes must pace themselves and be ready to shoot accurately 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: Para-biathletes need a good mix of both shooting accuracy and stamina, both of which require lots of training.
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
Sprint And d Long-distance
- In sprint, athletes race around a two to three kilometre circuit, stopping twice to shoot.
- Long-distance is the same idea, but skiers must do the circuit five times, and stop to shoot four times.
- Athletes are grouped into sitting, standing or visually impaired categories based upon their disability.
Take The Shot
- During the shooting portions, skiers get to take five shots each at targets 10 metres away.
- The skiers then try to hit the target within a 13 millimetre bullseye, or 21 millimetres of visually impaired athletes. That’s tiny!
- In sprint, each missed shot means the skier must do a 150 metre penalty lap.
- In long-distance, the penalty for each missed shot is one minute added to the skier’s final time.
Shooting With Sound
- Para-biathletes with visual impairments have some cool tech to help them shoot on target.
- An electronic beam connected with a headset will play a sound when they’re aiming.
- When the pitch of the sound gets higher, it means they’re closer to hitting the bullseye.
Biathlon started in the snow-covered forests of Scandinavia, where people would hunt on skis.
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.
Olympic para biathlon got its start at the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994, but it was first introduced in 1988 at the Paralympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria.