Biathlon: history, competition rules, equipment


In the article “Biathlon” we will get acquainted with the popular winter sport, figure out why guns have recoil, and talk about the rules of competition.

#Biathlon #ProBiathlon #AboutBiathlon #WinterSport

In the days of the ancient Olympics, athletes not only competed in strength sports, they also took part in marksmanship by shooting at targets with an arrow. Thousands of years have passed since then, but a steady hand and a steady eye are still valued in various sports.

One such sport is Biathlon. The word “biathlon” is unusual and consists of two parts: “bi” from the Latin “bis”, i.e., twice, and “atlon,” from the ancient Greek to compete. It turns out that the literal translation is “to compete twice”.

As the name suggests, biathlon combines two types of competition, ski racing and rifle shooting. Many people may be surprised by this combination of different sports, but it is far from accidental.

Biathlon was born in Sweden, a northern country with a harsh climate. The harsh climate is not very favorable to agriculture, which means that the ancestors of the ancient Swedes paid special attention to hunting, as the main source of subsistence. Considering the peculiarities of the climate, at least half of the year they had to hunt in winter. That is why hunters got up on skis, otherwise they would immediately get bogged down in the snow.

The first competition, reminiscent of biathlon, was held between Swedish and Norwegian border guards back in 1767. To win, participants had to hit a target by shooting from a rifle while descending a hill. However, these competitions never became very popular.

Military Patrol Races
Military Patrol Races

The second birth of biathlon took place in the 1930s. At that time the sport was called “military patrol races” and only servicemen took part in it. By the way, the program of the competitions included not only ski racing and shooting, but also grenade throwing. That was a bellicose ancestor of today’s biathlon wpml smile

And only in 1957, with the establishment of an international federation, the sport took the modern name of “Biathlon”. Biathlon for men became an Olympic sport in 1960. And girls wanted to show their skills, so in 1984 the world’s first women’s biathlon world championship was held.

Alexander Tikhonov
Alexander Tikhonov

Our team returned from this championship with a full set of medals. Our athletes were the only ones to get onto the podium in the individual race. Among them were 11-time world champion and four-time Olympic champion Alexander Tikhonov and 10-time world champion Elena Golovina.

Medals in biathlon are doubly honorable because it is one of the most difficult sports, requiring from the athlete a variety of skills and abilities.

There are several varieties of the sport. For example, Acheri Biathlon, skiers compete in archery rather than shotgun. There is Hunting Biathlon, athletes run on hunting skis and shoot with a hunting rifle and even on snowshoes. And that’s just the winter sports.

There are also summer types, such as mountain bike biathlon, tank biathlon and simply summer biathlon, which combines shooting with running. In fact, there are many types of biathlon.

Biathlon inherited from skiing a variety of disciplines. Athletes compete in singles, sprint, pursuit, mass start and relay. Competitions take place on distances from 5 to 40 kilometers, with athletes stopping two to four times at the firing line.

On the firing range, the competitor must hit a target with a diameter of a few centimeters from a distance of 50 meters. Depending on the competition, the shot is taken standing or lying down, and in the lying down position the biathlete must hit a target almost three times smaller in diameter.

Target in biathlon
Target in biathlon

At each firing range the athlete must hit 5 targets with 5 shots. The only exception is the relay, in which the athlete will be able to hit 3 additional shots. If the athlete misses, he/she is penalized. In the individual race, it’s 1 minute of time, and in the other events, it’s a 150-meter penalty lap.

That’s how complicated the rules are in this fascinating sport. You not only need to run the course as fast as possible, you also need to be sure you don’t miss your shots. And it’s not an easy task at all. A biathlete must hit a target the size of an apple from 50 meters while standing and a target the size of a plum while lying down. And all this after a grueling cross-country run with a heavy rifle on his back.

The Biathlon rifle weighs more than 3.5 kg and uses 5.6 mm ammunition. The bullet in its widest part has a diameter equal to the caliber. Biathlon has very strict requirements to the weapon. The rifle can not be automatic, it can not even be semi-automatic.

BI-7-7 rifle by Kalashnikov
BI-7-7 rifle by Kalashnikov

This means that after each shot, the athlete has to close the bolt himself, refilling the cartridge into the chamber. Biathlon prohibits the use of a telescopic sight, which enlarges the image of the target.

In general, a biathlon rifle must allow the shooter to demonstrate all his skills, without the help of any aids. It is much more difficult to hit the target with such a rifle than with a “sniper” rifle.

There are not so many companies in the world which produce rifles for biathlon. German and Russian armament companies are recognized as leaders. It is Russian rifles that brought gold medals to our wonderful athletes.

Shooting a rifle is not an easy thing, it is not enough just to aim and pull the trigger, you also need to be able to hold your breath before the shot so as not to miss. You also need to hold the rifle correctly, otherwise you can be injured by the recoil.

22lr cartridge (5.6 mm)
22lr cartridge (5.6 mm)

So what happens to the cartridge case remaining in the gun? When the bullet and the powder gases fly out of the gun at great speed, the cartridge case and the gun fly away in the opposite direction. In this case, the velocity of the shotgun will be as many times less than the bullet’s velocity, as many times lighter than the shotgun itself. As a result, the gun jerks back sharply at the moment of firing, and this jerk is called recoil.

The recoil must be treated with extreme care, because the impulse from the shot is very high. According to the rules, the buttstock must be pressed to the shoulder. If this is not done, the gun will hit the shoulder with a swing and in the best case the athlete will be dislocated or in the worst case he will get a broken collarbone.

Each biathlete always faces a very difficult task, he must not just shoot, he must accurately hit 5 targets and for this he must train long and hard.

Training for biathletes includes two areas at once, ski racing and shooting. If you decide to take up this sport, it is worth bearing in mind a few important points. Biathlon section is accepted from the age of 9 years, but it does not mean that you will be given a real rifle right away.

The first year or two are devoted to ski training, then young biathletes learn to shoot air rifles for at least another year, and only then get their hands on the long-awaited sport rifle. And if you are not 9 for a long time it’s not a reason to be upset, because it’s never too late to start doing sports.

Coaches say that those who came to biathlon when they were teenagers have all the chances to reach the top, because Alexander Tikhonov, “Mr. Biathlon”, as he was dubbed by the journalists, also came to biathlon from skiing at the age of 19. One could say that you still have a long way to go, all you need is desire and persistence!

About Biathlon


Biathlon is a winter sport, which is a ski race with shooting on the shooting ranges. The word "biathlon" consists of two parts: "bi" from the Latin "bis", i.e., twice, and "atlon" from the ancient Greek to compete. It turns out that the literal translation is "to compete twice".

  • Ole Einar Bjorndalen (Norway);
  • Sven Fischer (Germany);
  • Alexander Tikhonov (Russia);
  • Magdalena Forsberg (Sweden);
  • Darya Domracheva (Belarus);
  • Anfisa Reztsova (Russia).

  • Skiing equipment (skis, poles, bindings, boots);
  • Small-caliber rifle (weight not less than 3.5 kg, caliber 5.6 mm, magazines with cartridges);
  • Ski overalls (made of membrane fabric, repels water, protects from wind, keeps warmth, removes excess moisture);
  • Accessories at the discretion of the athlete (goggles, headgear, headband). Obligatory accessory - gloves.
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