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A challenging and exciting sport

Biathlon is an exciting sport that challenges participants with a diverse range of skills that no other sport requires: the endurance, speed, strength and coordination needed for cross-country skiing and the concentration, focus, accuracy and split-second timing needed for accurate and fast target shooting under pressure. Biathlon also teaches people how to use rifles in a safe and non-confrontational manner, a point that is strongly emphasized in the sport. What’s more, biathlon is a lot of fun!

The word biathlon is of Greek origin and means "two tests". The combination of skiing and shooting used in the sport today is founded on a tradition of hunting stemming back over 4,000 years. The first recorded biathlon race was organized in Scandinavia in 1767, but regular competitions were not held until the early 20th century. Biathlon was first contested in the Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, France, in 1924 and has been a permanent fixture in the Olympics since 1960.

Today, biathlon events combine the two opposing disciplines of freestyle cross-country ski technique with precision target shooting using .22-calibre rifles at a 50 m range. Participants ski a designated loop and then ski into the range to fire five shots at five targets in either a standing or prone (lying down) position. For every shot missed the participant is penalized. Depending on the type of race, the penalty is either added skiing distance in the form of a 150 m penalty loop or having an extra minute added to the time. The participant then skis and shoots again, repeating this sequence until the required number of ski legs and shooting bouts are completed. Athletes compete over distances ranging from 2.5 km for our youngest competitors to 20 km for the men.

In addition to the Winter Olympics, there is an annual World Cup series in biathlon with events being held primarily in Europe where the sport enjoys massive appeal and extensive television coverage. There is also a Biathlon World Championships held every winter except for Olympic years. The combination of skills and the nature of the event make biathlon an extremely exciting sport to watch. For these reasons, biathlon is one of the most widely watched winter sports in Europe.