Here's What to Know About the Biathlon at the Winter Olympics

Biathlon – Winter Olympics Day 1
Biathlon – Winter Olympics Day 1
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Biathlon is one of the most interesting sports to take place at the Winter Olympics.

Combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting proves to be an extremely challenging event as athletes go through a course of skiing that is interrupted by frequent stops to shoot at a series of targets.

Since its debut at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, biathlon has been an athletic staple with new events added to the competition over the years.

Here’s your cheat sheet for the biathlon at the 2022 Olympics.

Biathlon at the Winter Olympics consists of how many events?

There are 11 biathlon events that will be medaled at the 2022 Winter Games:

  • Mixed Relay
  • Women’s 15km Individual 
  • Men’s 20km Individual
  • Women’s 7.5km Sprint
  • Men’s 10km Sprint
  • Women’s 10km Pursuit
  • Men’s 12.5km Pursuit
  • Men’s 4×7.5km Relay
  • Women’s 4x6km Relay
  • Men’s 15km Mass Start
  • Women’s 12.5km Mass Start

What are the rules of biathlon?

Biathlon rules depend on the specific event. 

In the individual event, the skier will run a 20km course for men and 15km for women. The skier must stop four times to shoot at five targets each time. Each time they miss a target, they receive a one-minute penalty. 

In the sprint event, the course (10km for men and 7.5km for women) is raced over three laps. The biathletes will stop twice and shoot at five targets – once in the standing position and once in the prone position. If they miss a shot, they must ski through a 150m penalty loop before they can continue along the race course.

The top 60 finishers from the sprint race will then qualify to compete in the pursuit race (12.5km for men and 10km for women), where they look to pursue the leader and cross the finish line. There will be four shooting stages: two in the standing position and two in the prone position.


The men’s relay is a 4×7.5km event that is run over three laps, and the women run a 4x6km race. Each competitor must perform two shooting rounds.

In the relay event, the first members of all teams begin the race at the same time. Once completed, they will tag their next team member in the “Hand-over Zone.”

What is mass start in a biathlon?

Mass start is the newest of the events, as it was added in 2006 at the Torino Games. In mass start, 30 competitors who had the best scores in the events prior will simultaneously begin the race (15km for men and 12.6km for women) with four shooting stages. 

What is a mixed relay biathlon?

The mixed relay is a new concept where female biathletes complete the first and second parts of the relay race and male biathletes complete the third and fourth parts of the race. The mixed relay follows all rules from the relay race.

How do biathletes shoot?

Biathletes shoot from two positions: standing and prone. 

What kind of rifle is used in biathlon?

The current sport standard is the Anschütz 1827 Fortner, which is reported to be used by an estimated 97% of biathlon competitors worldwide.

The specs of the gun used are described as a .22-caliber rifle with five-round clips that must weigh at least 3.5 kg (or 7.7 pounds).

When did biathlon start?

The sport is rooted in the skiing traditions of Scandinavia.

Biathlon played an integral role in military life from the 1700s on, and the earliest recorded biathlon competition took place around 1767 along the Norway-Sweden border between patrol companies.

When was biathlon added to the Winter Olympics?

The first competition in biathlon came during the Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The Military Patrol was included as a demonstration event and was continued in the Winter Olympics of 1928, 1936 and 1948. 

The biathlon was added to the Winter Olympics program as an official men’s event in 1960. International biathlon competitions for women were first held in 1981.

Which countries are the best at biathlon?

Germany has been the most successful nation in Olympic biathlon, winning 52 medals and 19 golds. After Germany is Norway with 41 medals and 16 golds. Russia rounds out the top three with 22 medals, including 10 golds. 

Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway leads the medal count with 13 total medals followed by Ricco Gross of Germany with eight.