Fire away and become a para biathlon instant expert

Here's everything you need to know to instantly become a para biathlon expert as Canada competes at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

What you need to know about the multifaceted winter sport

Canada's Mark Arendz, pictured during the 2010 Paralympics, is looking to win his first Paralympic gold in Pyeongchang. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Para biathlon combines cross-country skiing and riflery in an event that requires a seamless transition from complete physical exertion to calm, accurate shooting. The sport — which along with cross-country skiing forms the para-nordic discipline — was first contested at the 1994 Paralympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Here's everything you need to know to instantly become a para biathlon expert as Canada competes at the Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea:

How the events work

Athletes are divided into three categories depending on their classification: standing, sitting and visually impaired.

Events consist of laps on a cross-country course range with shooting rounds at the end each lap. The number of shooting rounds vary depending on whether it is a sprint, middle-distance or long-distance event.

Competitors must hit five targets that are 10 metres away before continuing with the skiing element. Athletes shoot at the targets from the prone position; targets measure 13 millimetres in diameter for the standing and sitting events and 21 mm in visually impaired events.

Missed targets result in penalties for the athletes. For sprint and middle distances, a penalty loop must be skied for every missed target before returning to the regular course. The distance of the loop for sit-skiers is 100 metres, while athletes in the standing or visually impaired classification ski a 150-metre penalty loop.

For the long-distance event, an extra minute is added to a competitor's total time for every miss.

Guides and equipment

Skiers in the visually impaired classification compete with a guide who skis with them. The guide communicates with the skier throughout the course to help them navigate.

In this classification, electronic rifles equipped with headsets are used, with the headsets used to help the competitors locate the target using sound by omitting a higher pitch depending on how close an athlete's aim is. A hit turns the target green, while a miss turns it red.

This is different in the standing and sitting events, where the target turns white for a hit or remains black if missed. Competitors in these events use rifles and targets similar to biathlon's able-bodied counterpart.

Athletes in the sitting classification compete in sit-skis, which are specially designed chairs on top of two skis. Competitors can also use poles.

Canadian contenders

Several Canadian athletes compete in both cross-country and biathlon events as part of the para-nordic discipline.

Mark Arendz and Brian McKeever are the only Canadians to win Paralympic biathlon medals; Arendz won silver in bronze at the 2014 Games, while McKeever earned bronze in 2006.

The 27-year-old Arendz enters the 2018 Paralympics on the strength of a strong showing at last year's para-nordic world championships; the Hartsville, P.E.I., native won five medals, including two golds and a silver in biathlon events.

Sharp-shooting Brittany Hudak will compete in her second Games in Pyeongchang. The 24-year-old from Prince Albert, Sask., earned a World Cup bronze in December in Canmore, Alta.

Here are the 14 members of Canada's para nordic team:

  • Brian McKeever, Canmore, Alta.
  • Cindy Ouellet, Quebec City
  • Mark Arendz, Hartsville, P.E.I.
  • Sebastien Fortier, Quebec City
  • Yves Bourque, Becancour, Que.
  • Chris Klebl, Canmore, Alta.
  • Brittany Hudak, Prince Albert, Sask.
  • Collin Cameron, Sudbury, Ont.
  • Ethan Hess, Pemberton, B.C.
  • Natalie Wilkie, Salmon Arm, B.C.
  • Emily Young, North Vancouver, B.C.
  • Derek Zaplotinsky, Smoky Lake, Alta.
  • Russell Kennedy, Canmore, Alta.
  • Graham Nishikawa, Whitehorse

With files from the Canadian Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.