Why Is A Biathlon Skiing & Shooting?

Anyone else wonder how the biathlon came to include just cross-country skiing and precision target shooting? Does that seem a little random?

Luckily biathlon.net answers those questions for us! The gist:

- The biathlon evolved from hunting and winter warfare.
- Hunting on skis began in ancient Rome, Greece, and China, as early as 400 BC.
- There have been historical writings about warriors on skis dated to the early first century AD. By the 1800s, many skiing regiments were active in Europe and Asia.

- Norway began regular shooting and skiing competitions in 1776.
- Germany began a similar competition called Military Patrol in 1902.
- Military Patrol was a demonstration sport in a handful of Olympic games before being incorporated as an official Olympic winter sport, called "the Biathlon", in 1960 in Squaw Valley, CA, USA.
- Women's Biathlon premiered at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games.

- The skiing distances, targets, and penalties have changed throughout the years, and are different for each biathlon event.
Here are the rules for the 2010 Olympic individual men's biathlon event:
  • Men cross-country ski 20 km (~12.5 miles) over 5 laps, with their guns on their backs.
  • They have to shoot 5 targets in between each lap, for a total of 4 times. They take turns shooting from a prone (on their belly) position to a standing position from lap to lap. The targets are 50 m away, and the target is about the size of a golf ball for the prone position and a grapefruit for the standing position.
  • For each missed target, a penalty of 1 minute is added to their skiing time.
  • Whoever completes the biathlon in the shortest amount of time wins.
- In the 2010 Winter Games, there are 10 different biathlon events, including individual, relay, sprint, pursuit, and mass start for each men and women.

Alright, I suppose it makes more sense now! I can see how it really pushes athletes because they not only have to have speed and endurance to complete the cross-country skiing portion, but also the control and precision for the target shooting. Cool.

Norway's Tora Berger won the gold for the women's individual biathlon at the 2010 Olympics.

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