About Biathlon

2017 CANADIAN AND NORTH AMERICAN BIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS 

DESCRIPTION OF THE SPORT OF BIATHLON AND ITS VARIOUS COMPETITIONS

Did you know the word biathlon is of Greek origin and means “two tests”? This of course refers to the combination of skiing and shooting which dates back over 4000 years through the tradition of hunting while travelling on skis in pursuit of game. Historians also cite military references with descriptions of battles between warriors on skis. Gradually, the techniques needed for survival and combat developed into contests of skill. What could have been a more natural competition between the hunters in the Scandinavian forests, than that of marksmanship and cross-country skiing?

Sprint Competition

The Sprint Competition consists of three laps of skiing, with one bout of prone shooting (five shots) and one bout of standing shooting (five shots). Every missed shot is penalized with one lap around the 150m penalty lap. The men’s races vary between 6.0 km and  10 km long depending on age groups, and the women’s race races vary between 6 km and  7.5 km long, and has an interval start.

Pursuit Competition

The eligibility to compete, and the start order and intervals, in a Pursuit competition are based on a qualifying competition which is normally held the previous day. Both the Sprint and the Individual competitions can be used as the qualifying competition but the Sprint is the norm.  The basic concept of the Pursuit is that the winner of the qualifying competition starts first and the remainder follow in the order and time that they finished behind the winner in the qualifying competition. The Pursuit is highly exciting because it can be seen at any time who is leading and because of the psychology of the competitors pursuing the athletes ahead of them. The first competitor to cross the finish line is the winner, subject to any penalties or time adjustments. Pursuit competitions have two bouts of prone shooting, followed by two bouts of standing shooting each interspaced with a ski lap around the designated course (the course being shorter as the age category decreases. 

Mass Start Competition

The Mass Start is a four lap race, measuring between 10  to 15 km in distance for men and  10 to 12.5 km for women, with four bouts of shooting; two prone, two standing, with a simultaneous start. In National Championships, only the older age categories participate in the exciting race, as the first across the finish line is crowned the winner.  

Individual Competition

This is the traditional Biathlon competition which was established before the invention of the mechanical target in which hits and misses can be seen from the firing point. Originally, paper targets were used and were scored after the last shooting was done. Each competitor was then given a penalty of added time for misses. Today the same principle applies but the misses can be seen on a shot-to-shot basis. Shooting is more important in the Individual competition, with its one minute penalty, except for the Youth and Senior Boy/Girl categories which have a 45 sec penalty. The Individual is the longest in skiing distance of all Biathlon competitions and has four bouts of shooting for all classes of competitors. The difficulty for a novice spectator is that there is no certainty of knowing who is leading at any given time although intermediate times provide some indication of placing at a given time. The Individual competition takes about one hour to complete for each competitor. Men will start by skiing 4 km and then shooting, continuing the sequence until they have shot four times, with a 4 km ski loop between bouts, and then completing the 20 km with the last 4 km loop to the finish. Women will do generally the same but with slightly shorter ski loops for the 15 km competition. The distances get progressively shorter as the age class decreases. 

Mixed Relay Competition

The Mixed Relay challenges teams of three  to compete head to head over  three laps, with two bouts of shooting each (one prone and one standing). The first leg biathletes start together, and must tag off to their teammate after their leg is complete. Competitors have eight bullets to hit five targets in each bout of shooting, although the last three bullets (called spares), must be hand loaded individually. If the biathlete runs out of spares, he or she must ski one 150m penalty loop for each target missed. Teams consist of at least one male and female female athletes from each Division. Women ski 6 km loops, while men ski 7.5 km loops.

Details of all of the distances and shooting requirements for each of the competitions that will held at this event can be obtained at the following link: Competition-and-class-types