October 19, 2017

What is Biathlon?

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Biathlon is a combination of cross country skiing (skate technique) and precision rifle target shooting.  It is a very exciting, fast paced sport that challenges the athlete to a high level.  It is considered to be Europe’s top winter spectator sport.

Check out these videos featuring Telemark’s Jasper MacKenzie:

BC Cup Biathlon races come in a variety of formats:

  • Sprint2 shooting bouts, skied penalty loops for each missed shot, 3 ski laps, best time wins
  • Individual – 4 shooting bouts (3 for younger), time penalties added for each missed shot, 5 ski laps (4 for younger), best time wins, starts staggered by 30 seconds
  • Pursuit 4 shooting bouts (3 for younger), skied penalty loops for each missed shot, 5 ski laps (4 for younger), Starts staggered by 5 seconds based on placing from  previous day’s race, first over the finish line wins
  • Mass Start – 4 shooting bouts (3 for younger), skied penalty loops for each missed shot, 5 ski laps (4 for younger). All start together, first over the finish line wins
  • Relay- Usually 4 on a team, extra bullets allowed, skied penalty loops for each target not hit after shooting bout, first over the finish line wins.  Each skier skis two laps – one before shooting, and one after leading up to the relay transition point or finish line

Depending on the age and gender of the skier, the race distance, the number of shooting bouts, and the penalty loop distance changes.  If using a penalty format, every shot missed means skiing a penalty loop in the stadium.  Miss 5 shots, ski 5 penalty loops before going out on the normal course.  Penalty loops are usually 100 m or 150 m in length.

Biathlon uses .22 caliber rifles specifically designed for biathlon competitions and the rifles must weigh at least 3.5 kg.  The targets are set 50 metres away and consist of 5 flip paddles. For each shooting bout, the athlete has five shots to take; every miss results in a penalty.  Miss five shots, then take five penalties! For prone shooting (lying down), the targets are about the size of a toonie (45 mm); for standing shooting the targets are about the size of a dessert plate (115 mm)!