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The name biathlon is used to describe any sporting event made up of two disciplines, but usually the sport which combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting[?] is meant.

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The sport has its origins in an exercise for Norwegian soldiers. The first known competition took place in 1767 when several border patrol companies competed against each other. The sport became more common throughout Scandinavia as an alternative training for the military.

Called military patrol, the combination of skiing and shooting was demonstrated at the Olympic Winter Games in 1924, 1928, 1936 and 1948, but did not gain Olympic recognition then, as the small number of competing countries disagreed on the rules. In 1948, the Union International de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon[?] (UIPMB) was founded to standardise the rules for biathlon and modern pentathlon.

The first World Championships in the sport were organised in 1958 in Austria, and in 1960 it was included in the Olympic Games.

In 1993, the biathlon branch of the UIPMB created the International Biathlon Union[?] (IBU), which officially separated from the UIPMB in 1998.


For complete rules, see IBU Rule book (http://www.ibu.at/rules/).


All skiing techniques are permitted in biathlon, but no other material than skis and ski poles may be used. The length of the skis is minimally the length of the skiier minus 4 cm.


The biathlete must carry his rifle on his back during the race. The rifles used are 5.6 mm caliber (.22) and are not automatic or semi-automatic; loading must be done by the biathlete's muscle force.

Competition Format


In the sprint, held over 10 km (7.5 for women), the biathlete shoots twice (10 shots), once standing, once prone. For each miss, a penalty loop of 150 m has to be completed before the race can be continued. The biathletes start in intervals.


In the pursuit, the biathletes start with the time difference between them from a previous race. Therefore, the one to cross the line first becomes the winner. The distance is 12.5 km (10 km for women), and there are four shooting rounds (2 prone, 2 standing), and each miss means a penalty loop of 150 m.

Mass start

In the mass start, all biathletes start at the same time, which limits the maximum number of competitors. In 15 km (or 12.5 km for women), there's four rounds of shooting, twice standing, twice prone. Extra time is added for each missed target.


The 20 km individual race (15 km for women) is the oldest biathlon event. The biathlete shoots four times, twice standing, twice prone, totalling 20 targets. For each missed target, time is added to the skiing time of the biathlete. The biathletes start in intervals.


Teams consist of four biathletes, who each ski 7.5 km (both men and women), with two shooting rounds (once prone, once standing). For each 5 targets, there are 8 bullets available, though the last three can only be loaded one at a time. If even with 8 bullets there are still misses, a 150 m penalty loop must be skiied. The biathletes start all at the same time and must touch each other to exchange.


A team consists of four biathletes, and all start at the same time. Two athletes must shoot in the prone shooting round, the other two in the standing round. In case of a miss, the two non-shooting biathletes must ski a penalty loop of 150 m. The skiiers must enter the shooting area together, and must also finish within 15 seconds of each other, otherwise a time penalty of 1 minute is added to the total time.

Governing Body

Presidents of the UIPMB (incomplete?)



Two common variations on biathlon are summer biathlon, where skiing is replaced by a cross-country run, and archery biathlon, where the rifle is replace by a longbow.

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