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Ole Einar Bjørndalen before the mass start at the 2010 Olympic Games
Martin Fourcade at the World Cup in Oberhof

Biathlon ( Latin / Greek for two-fight ) is primarily in the winter discharged sport , posing as combination of sport from the disciplines of cross-country skiing and shooting composed. Cross-country skiing is an endurance sport and shooting is a precision sport .

Initially, biathlon was more of a marginal sport, but it has been consistently and successfully developed into a discipline that can be marketed to the public on television. Spectator interest has been increasing steadily since the early 1990s, so that biathlon is one of the most popular winter sports in some countries, especially Germany.

Biathlon is one of the sports played at the Olympic Winter Games ; in non-Olympic years, biathlon world championships are held. Other international races will be held as part of the biathlon world cup .


Early history of biathlon

Cave paintings discovered in Norway prove that humans knew how to use skiing as a suitable means of tracking wild animals in the snow more than 5000 years ago . The first written records on this can be found in Chinese , Greek and Roman history; so describes z. B. the Roman poet Virgil around 40 BC. The hunt on skis. The figure one with arrow and bow hunting man on skis was also found on a dating from the year 1050 Runestone from Balingista in Norway.

Development to military sport

The origins of biathlon lie primarily in the military sector. At the beginning of the Viking Age, the natives of Northern Norway successfully defended themselves on skis against the invading hordes of Danish Vikings . In the Middle Ages , the fast and flexible ski regiments were an integral part of the armies in Scandinavia and Russia .

In the 18th century, skiing became the most important military sport in Northern Europe. A good ski soldier could do both shooting and cross-country skiing. On the Swedish-Norwegian border as early as 1767, border guards from both countries competed in which they had to shoot with a rifle while skiing. In 1776, ski competitions with shooting bouts (rifles / pistols) were held in Norwegian villages for the first time. However, until the first organized competitions were held in the late 19th century, the combination of cross-country skiing and shooting was used exclusively for hunting and military purposes.

The first biathlon club was founded in Norway in 1861 with the Trysil Rifle and Ski Club . In the German-speaking area, both military skiing and the general variant did not develop until the end of the 19th century. In the German Empire in 1895 for the first time military skiing championships were held. In 1912, a single race was held in Norway, in which 10 shots had to be fired twice and which thus came very close to today's individual competition. The organization of these competitions was the responsibility of the military, which is why the participants were exclusively recruited from members of the army. The factory production of skis in Austrian workshops from 1906 facilitated and promoted the sport significantly.

From these competitions, the military patrol race developed by 1915 , which is regarded as the predecessor of today's biathlon. While individual and relay races have always been run in biathlon, the military patrol was defined as a pure team competition until 1930. A military patrol had to consist of an officer, a non-commissioned officer and two soldiers. The distance was between 25 and 30 kilometers, with a prone shooting test halfway through the distance. For each hit, the team that had to reach the goal as a single unit received a time credit of thirty seconds.

From 1910 there was the discipline "military patrol run" in winter sports. At the Olympic Winter Games in 1924, 1928 and 1936 this discipline was approved as a demonstration sport. In 1930 the first world championships in military patrols took place, with individual and relay races; it was run under this name until 1948, from 1949 the name biathlon (Greek: duel) prevailed. The new name was proposed by the chairman of the International Association for Modern Pentathlon and Biathlon (UIPMB) [12], founded in Sandhurst GBR in 1948, the Swedish General Sven Thofelt. Biathlon was affiliated to this association until the 1993/94 season. Then an independent umbrella organization, the International Biathlon Union (IBU) was founded. That is why biathlon now counts as a separate sport; in Germany, the active participants are coordinated by the German Ski Association (DSV).

The military patrol run had its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. At the International Sports Week of 1924, which the IOC retrospectively declared to be the first Winter Olympics , the military patrol run was part of the official demonstration program and then continued to be a demonstration competition at the 1928 , 1936 and 1948 Winter Olympics .

Between 1930 and 1941 world championships were held in military patrols, in which titles were awarded in both individual and team combat. Initially, only active soldiers were admitted to competitions under the command of an officer. The patrol run is carried out to this day as part of army championships and military world championships. One of the most famous competition events is the Swiss Patrouille des Glaciers , in which civil ski mountaineering teams also take part.

History of the modern biathlon

After the Second World War , the sport was demilitarized and opened to civilian athletes. At the 1948 Winter Olympics , in addition to the military patrol run, the winter pentathlon ( riding , epee fencing , shooting , cross-country skiing , downhill skiing ) as a winter equivalent of the modern pentathlon as a demonstration competition was approved. The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), founded on August 3, 1948, showed interest in starting a winter sports competition and decided to combine running and shooting. At the suggestion of the chairman of the UIPM, the Swedish general Sven Thofelt, the name biathlon was introduced.

IBU logo

The IOC recognized biathlon as an independent sport in 1954. In 1955 the International Federation of Modern Pentathlon (UIPM) introduced the concept of modern winter biathlon. The competition rules were approved in Australia on November 17, 1956 , and the UIPM officially became the federation of both sports. In 1957, it was officially accepted into the UIPM and in 1968 the association was renamed UIPMB. Biathlon remained a member of this association until the founding of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) as an independent association within the UIPMB until 1993. The two associations were formally separated in 1998. The most important biathlon competitions have been organized by the IBU since the beginning of the 21st century. This makes biathlon the only ski sport that is not regulated by the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS).

Since the Winter Paralympics in Innsbruck in 1988 , biathlon has also been held at Paralympic Games . Since 1992, athletes with visual impairments have also started .

History of women's biathlon

Tiril Eckhoff from Norway

The history of women's biathlon began much later than that of men. The UIPMB only passed the rules for women's competitions at its Congress in Sarajevo in 1980 . Then in 1981 the first international women's competition took place in Jáchymov (Joachimsthal) in the then Czechoslovakia . In 1984 the first women's biathlon world championships were organized, which were separate from those of the men until 1988 . The women's world championships have been held together with those of the men since 1989 .

In 1988 the IOC decided to include women's biathlon in the Olympic program. Women's biathlon was the first Olympic discipline four years later at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville . Despite the late start, the sport of biathlon developed very rapidly among women and is now equal to that of men.


Most biathletes started cross-country skiing as a child or adolescent and then switched to biathlon. Often this change happens in adolescence, so that winter sports enthusiasts train both running and shooting from this point on.

Especially in the early years of the sport, the majority of the participating athletes consisted of former professional cross-country skiers. But there are always some cross-country skiers switching to biathlon. Many of these athletes develop into dominant biathletes over time, for example the very successful biathletes Kati Wilhelm and Anna Carin Olofsson were former cross-country skiers. The German Denise Herrmann , the world champion in the pursuit in 2019 in Östersund , is also a former cross-country skier. The change of Finn Kaisa Varis , who came to biathlon after her doping ban in summer 2006, but tested positive again in 2008 as a biathlete , also caused a stir . In some countries such as Great Britain or Greenland, both disciplines are closely related, for example British championships in both disciplines are held together.

Also in other countries, e.g. B. in Sweden, occasionally some cross-country skiers switch to biathlon. In the countries where cross-country skiing is very important, the switch to biathlon is still seen today as a sporting decline despite the current positive development.

The rate of change from biathlon to special cross-country skiing, however, is much lower. After several successes in cross-country skiing, the Russian Anfissa Reszowa switched to biathlon at the end of the 1980s, where she was also able to celebrate numerous successes. At the end of her career, she won the gold medal in cross-country skiing with the Russian relay. Your compatriot Tschepikow switched to cross-country skiing in the mid-1990s after very successful years in biathlon. After his preliminary retirement, he successfully started again in biathlon a few years later. The German biathlete Miriam Gössner was successful with several victories and podium places in the biathlon world cup, as well as with the cross-country relay at the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2009 and at the 2010 Olympic Games, where she won the silver medal.

Especially the Norwegian men like Frode Andresen , Lars Berger and Ole Einar Bjørndalen started in individual cross-country races again and again. Berger was twice relay and once individual world champion in cross-country skiing, Bjørndalen also won a race in the cross-country world cup.

Spread and popularity

The sport of biathlon is now played in all classic winter sports countries in Europe and North America .

Especially in Russia and Scandinavia , especially in Norway, biathlon has long been one of the most popular winter sports. From the 1990s onwards, public interest in Germany grew more and more, and biathlon has been one of the most popular winter sports since the turn of the millennium . All World Cup races are now broadcast on television and take place on site in front of an ever-increasing audience. For the television stations Das Erste and ZDF , the biathlon races, some of which are followed by over six million viewers, now regularly have the highest ratings of all winter sports broadcast. Although German athletes could celebrate in biathlon since the 1970s successes came in the vote for Sportsman of the Year with the biathlete Uschi Disl only in 2005 for the first time an athlete from the biathlon. In 2006 followed with Kati Wilhelm and Michael Greis ; 2007, 2011 and 2012 with Magdalena Neuner and 2017 with Laura Dahlmeier other biathletes.

Despite the great successes of French biathletes in the World Cup and World Championships, the sport still leads a shadowy existence in France, both in terms of public interest and financial support. The French biathlete Sandrine Bailly criticized several times that biathlon in France was only associated with the former biathlete Raphaël Poirée, if at all, and that her successes remained unrecognized. Raphaël Poirée stated in an interview in 2005 that he had to mainly take care of financial resources and sponsors himself.

Biathlon also has a great tradition in Italy , mainly in German-speaking South Tyrol , from which many well-known athletes have come from over the last few decades.

In Austria and Switzerland , biathlon traditionally played a subordinate role. However, due to the sporting successes of recent years and the high number of visitors to the World Cups and World Championships in Hochfilzen , biathlon is becoming more and more important in Austria. With the Biathlon Arena Lenzerheide , a training and competition center for cross-country skiers and biathletes is being built in Switzerland. In the long term, one would like to apply to host World Cups and World Championships.

In the United States and Canada , biathlon is also one of the less-noticed winter sports. Although all these countries repeatedly produce athletes who can keep up with the world's best, the public's interest is kept within narrow limits. In the United States, however, the sport is widespread in some regions and is mainly practiced by members of the National Guard. Top athletes are therefore often promoted as sports soldiers through sports funding. In Canada, on the other hand, biathlon is one of the least funded Olympic sports, which is why Canadian athletes are often forced to find innovative ways to finance their sport (e.g. through crowdfunding ).

Since the turn of the millennium, biathlon has been promoted more and more in Asia ; The People's Republic of China , in particular, worked successfully with its German trainer Klaus Siebert to bring its athletes to the top of the world, drawing on a very small pool of mostly former cross-country skiers. Since the 2010s, the successes of Chinese athletes have steadily declined due to a lack of financial support. Other nations like Japan can only point to occasional and sporadic successes. From 2009, until shortly before his death, Siebert worked as the responsible trainer for the biathletes of Belarus, which resulted in notable international successes, especially in the early 2010s, especially through Darja Domratschawa winning the overall World Cup and three gold medals at the 2014 Olympic Games .

The Czech Republic has also been one of the most successful countries in biathlon since the 2010s . The 2013 Biathlon World Championships , five medals at the 2014 Olympic Games and, in particular, the biathlete Gabriela Koukalová made the sport of biathlon very popular there. In 2015 the World Cup in Nové Město na Moravě had the highest number of spectators of all World Cups.

In addition to the classic winter sports countries, there are numerous nations in which there are only a few athletes. In these countries the sport of biathlon plays an insignificant role, the athletes practice the sport mainly out of self-motivation. In some World Cup races, there are athletes from over 30 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Greece, Greenland and Great Britain. As a rule, these athletes rarely occupy a place in the points.


Skis and sticks

Until the late 1980s, people ran in the classic style , and since then in the skating technique . Special skating skis are used , which weigh about 1250 g and are about 5 cm wide. The length of the ski depends on the height of the athlete and is not limited. The bindings fix the cross-country ski boots roughly in the middle of the ski, whereby the rear part of the boot can be lifted off the ski with every step in order to get a better advance. The skis do not have steel edges like alpine skis , which is why descents are much more difficult. In principle, the same building regulations apply as for cross-country skis.

The cross-country ski poles with which the athletes push off are shoulder-high.


Tina Bachmann in a standing position

Until 1977, large-bore rifles were used at biathlon events . The shooting distances were 100 m (standing) and 150, 200 and 250 m (lying). Small-bore rifles have been in use since 1978 , the weight of which must be at least 3.5 kg and which can only be repeated manually. The trigger weight must be at least 500 g. The rifle, initially weighing between 5 and 6 kg, now only around 3.8 kg – 2.5 kg, and ammunition must always be carried by the athlete.

The Norwegian team used rifles for the first time in the winter of 2002/03, the barrel of which was provided with a vibration-inhibiting coating. This compensates for slight shaking and improves accuracy considerably. A narrow strap can be worn on the arm, which is used for stabilization when shooting prone (hook onto the rifle butt and pull taut).

The sighting device consists of a manually adjustable diopter to compensate for wind influences. The rear sight must not have any magnifying effect. The front sight at the front end of the barrel is exchangeable in order to be able to react to the light conditions. In poor visibility z. B. a so-called fog grain is used. This has a larger opening so that more light can enter and visibility is improved.

The size and quality of the shaft are up to the athletes. These are made individually for each athlete and ideally adapted to their body. Special requests such as compartments for tools or replacement ammunition can be incorporated. Wood is the most common material for a shaft, but modern materials such as carbon are also used. The forms for right-handed and left-handed shooters only differ in that the weapons are mirror-inverted . However, there are also special forms that are approved by the IBU . After an eye operation, the Belarusian athlete Nadseja Skardsina could no longer use her right eye to aim at the targets as usual. However, in order not to have to relearn all the processes that she has worked out over the years, Skardsina continues to shoot as a right-handed shooter, but aims with her left eye. A specially shaped shaft made of carbon was made for this.

The color and optical design of the weapon is up to the athletes. However, there are restrictions on the part of the regulations for the number and size of advertising space on the weapon.


The ammunition has the caliber .22 lr , which corresponds to a diameter of 5.6 mm. The projectile must not exceed a muzzle velocity of 360 m / s and must weigh between 2.55 and 2.75 grams.

The ammunition is specially designed for use at low temperatures. In addition, the athletes tested long before the season starts her weapon in connection with different munition their manufacturer to the batch with the smallest scattering observed. Some of these experiments are also carried out in cold chambers in order to simulate shooting at sub-zero temperatures.

Shooting range and targets

Shooting range in Östersund
Prone shooting at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer

Shooting range

For international competitions such as the World Cup or the IBU Cup , the IBU stipulates a shooting range with 30 shooting lanes, each between 2.75 and 3 m wide. The shooting lanes are numbered from right to left, so stand 1 is on the right edge of the shooting range. In individual and sprint races, lanes 1 to 15 are intended for prone and lanes 16 to 30 for standing. In these two races, the athletes are free to choose the shooting range themselves. In the pursuit, mass start and relay races, the shooting lanes are allocated based on the order in which they arrive at the shooting range. The leading athlete thus shoots on lane 1, all other athletes fill the shooting range to the left according to their current position in the race. There is a special regulation for the mass start and relay races, where the shooting lane to be taken for the first shooting corresponds to the athlete's start number. This is necessary because the time intervals at this point in the race are still very short and there is not always a clear sequence.

Targets and shooting

The fire is shot at five targets per line of fire, which are attached at a distance of 50 m. The area of ​​a target to be hit is 4.5 cm (lying) or 11.5 cm (standing) in diameter, hits are indicated by covering the black target. Two different systems are permitted in the World Cup. An electrical system registers the impact of the projectile on the target and if a previously defined limit value is exceeded, the target is covered by a white screen. So-called "edge hits", in which only part of the projectile hits the target, can also trigger the mechanism, provided that the impact energy is sufficient. The "Kurvinen system" from Finland works purely mechanically. The target is freely rotatable and firmly connected to a screen. If the projectile hits the target or if the remaining energy is sufficient in the case of an edge hit, the target folds backwards and the shutter upwards. Missing a target is punished with either a penalty loop of 150 meters (relay, mass start, pursuit and sprint) or 75 meters (single mixed relay) or a penalty time of one minute (individual competition). Depending on the running strength of the athlete, a running time of 20 to 30 seconds can be assumed per penalty loop.

In which order the athlete shoots the targets to be hit is up to him. Most athletes shoot through target by target from left to right or right to left. In the event of a missed shot, the sequence is usually retained and the next target is switched to; the target that has already missed once is less often targeted again. Some athletes deviate from this pattern in their shooting bouts and shoot in their own order. One possibility here is not to shoot the penultimate target after three shots, but the last one and only then the penultimate one. Some athletes choose completely atypical shooting patterns and start around the middle of the target. This interrupts the linear shooting rhythm, some athletes believe that this increases concentration on the individual shots. However, this does not always lead to a better hit performance.

Set of rules

For every missing penalty loop that should have been run, the athlete is penalized with a time penalty of two minutes, which is then added to his total time. In any event, all five cartridges must be fired at every shooting bout. If an athlete leaves the range before firing the five cartridges, he will be punished with a time penalty of two minutes for each cartridge that has not been fired. The same applies to the relay, where the athlete is only allowed to leave the shooting range when he has either hit all five targets or used up all three spare rounds. So it is not possible to completely skip the shooting and run five penalty loops, as this would mean a time penalty of ten minutes.

Occasionally it can happen that an athlete does not shoot at the targets belonging to his shooting lane, but at the targets of a neighboring lane (so-called "crossfire"). In this case these shots will not be counted as hits. If another athlete is shooting on this lane, the targets must be re-opened if the incorrect shooter hits, so that the correct shooter can continue his shooting without hindrance. The targets already hit by the correctly shooting person are counted as hits. If the incorrectly shooting athlete realizes his mistake while shooting, he can aim at the correct targets with the remaining cartridges; each of these hits is then correctly credited to him. If he does not notice his mistake while shooting and fires all five cartridges at the wrong targets, this shooting insert will be scored with five mistakes. In individual cases, the athlete is credited with one penalty minute for each mistake, in all other races he must run five penalty loops. If the athlete does not run the penalty loops out of ignorance about the wrong shooting, he will be penalized with a total penalty of ten minutes, which will then throw him back to one of the lower ranks in the overall result. This faux pas can not only be made by inexperienced athletes, Magdalena Forsberg , Magdalena Neuner , Uschi Disl or Dmitri Jaroshenko have also suffered this mishap during a World Cup race.

In very rare cases, incorrect displays can occur, so that targets that have not been hit are displayed as hits or targets that are actually hit as errors. If an athlete has run too many penalty laps due to a false report, he will usually be awarded a time credit in the amount of the too many penalty laps. Conversely, a time penalty can be added to the athlete for too few penalty laps, which in this case only has the amount of time normally required for the corresponding number of penalty laps.


In the early years, paper targets and balloons were used for shooting, then breakable glass was used. From the biathlon world championships in 1981 , the black metal discs prevailed, which automatically folded down when hit by the impact. This system is still used today in the races held in Scandinavia. In the mid-1990s, a modern system with electromechanical targets and computerized evaluation of the hits was introduced. When the bullet hits the black target, a sensor triggers an impulse that pushes a white target in front of the black one and thus indicates the hit. In the biathlon world cup, a fully electronic shooting range is usually used. The sensor determines the impact pressure of the projectile. If the bullet reaches a value defined in the rules on impact, the shot is rated as a hit.

While only metal targets are allowed for official competitions, cardboard targets are always used for so-called shooting, preparation for a competition.


Biathlon track at the 2006 Olympic Games

The competition routes consist of a route network. Depending on which discipline is being held, the corresponding running lap is determined. The shortest laps are in pursuit, the longest in individual competition. There are always several rounds completed, at the end of which the stadium is located.

The running route must be varied, i.e. consist of alternating ascending, level and sloping parts. Care should be taken that the routes are demanding and selective, but that very steep and excessively long climbs or downhill runs that are too dangerous are not built in. Narrow points and rapid changes of direction should be avoided as far as possible. The difference between the highest and lowest point of the route may not exceed 80 m, whereby the highest point may only exceed 1800 m above sea level in exceptional cases.


winter Olympics

Magdalena Neuner at the 2010 Olympic Games

At the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix the military patrol race was first held as a predecessor of today's biathlon on 29 January 1924 in front of a larger non-militarized public. According to official information from the French Olympic Committee, the number of spectators was 1307, surpassing the number of spectators in all other Nordic competitions . While the military patrol run is now viewed as a demonstration competition, there was no distinction between original and demonstration competitions at the time the games were held. Even today, the competition is listed by the IOC in the official medal statistics from 1924. At the Olympic Winter Games of 1928 , 1936 and 1948 , the competition was included in the Olympic program as a pure demonstration competition.

Only after the development towards a purely athletic biathlon was the sport recognized by the IOC. In 1960 , the sport of biathlon was included in the official program of the Winter Games for the first time on February 21 with the men's 20-kilometer run . In 1968 with the 4-by-7.5-kilometer relay and in 1980 with the sprint competition, the next biathlon competitions were Olympic. At the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville , the biathlon women also celebrated their Olympic premiere. The women's competitions are structured like the men's competitions, but over shorter distances.

With the start of the pursuit run ( 2002 in Salt Lake City ) and the mass start ( 2006 in Turin ), five competitions each for men and women are now being held at the Winter Olympics. This means that after speed skating and cross-country skiing (six competitions each), biathlon, together with alpine skiing (five competitions each), is one of the sports with the most competitions. The individual biathlon disciplines, however, do not differ as much from one another as short and long distances in speed skating or slalom and downhill skiing in alpine sports. While most athletes here concentrate on individual sub-areas, there are some athletes in biathlon who take part in all competitions. The mixed relay has also been one of the disciplines since 2014 .

World championships

The first Biathlon World Championships men found in 1958 in the Austrian Saalfelden instead, the number of assets was still very low with only 25 athletes from seven countries. In the world championship program, only the individual competition was included, relay and sprint were only included in the program later.

Since 1984 , the world championships have also been held for women, which were held separately from the men’s world championships until 1988. Joint world championships for men and women have been held since 1989 , and the world championship program has been gradually expanded to include new disciplines (pursuit, mass start, mixed relay).

In addition to the biathlon world championships, the IBU also organizes summer biathlon world championships and world championships for juniors and youth. Athletes under the age of 21 who have reached the age of 19 by December 31 of the season are considered juniors, and before that as youth.

World cup

"Crystal balls", trophies for the winner of the overall World Cup

The Biathlon World Cup is a series of competitions for men and women organized by the IBU World Biathlon Federation , which is held annually from the end of November or beginning of December to mid-March. While in many other winter sports the world cup races for men and women take place in separate locations, in biathlon these are held in the same locations.

Over the years the competition program has been expanded several times, today a World Cup season usually comprises nine stations with three competitions per location. The races held at a World Cup location usually take place from Thursday to Sunday. The world cup races are mostly held in Central and Northern Europe and Russia. The German venues are Ruhpolding in Upper Bavaria and Oberhof in Thuringia . In addition, in some years, World Cup races are held in North America or Asia, especially towards the end of the season.

The World Cup has been held for men since the 1977/78 season and for women since the 1982/83 season. In addition to the overall World Cup winner, the winners in the various disciplines are also chosen. In contrast to the sports organized by the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS), the races held as part of the Biathlon World Championships (and until 2010 also those at the Olympic Winter Games ) also count towards the overall World Cup ranking.

Intercontinental and Continental Competitions

Continental competition series and championships are held annually, primarily in Europe ( IBU Cup , European Championships ), North America ( NorAm Cup , North American Championships), South America ( South American Championships ) and Asia ( Winter Asian Games ). Especially in Asia, these title fights are very important, the athletes are withdrawn from the current World Cups. In Europe, larger nations like Germany, Norway or Russia usually only compete with the "second set", which devalues ​​these title fights a bit. This means that nations also have a chance of achieving top positions that tend to achieve lower positions at world championships.

In addition, there are also transnational and larger regional competitions such as the Alpencup , Central European Cup , Baltic Biathlon Cup or the Open Winter Balkan Cup .


The sport of biathlon is played in different disciplines, which follow the same basic principle, but differ from each other by different rules. In the Biathlon World Cup , seven disciplines are currently being held with individual, sprint, pursuit, mass start, relay and mixed and single-mixed relay. With the exception of the single-mixed relay, these disciplines are also part of the competition program of the Olympic Winter Games .

Individual disciplines


singles sprint Super Sprint (Qualification) Super Sprint (Final) persecution Mass start
Distance men 20 km
15 km 1
10 km 3 km 5 km 12.5 km 15 km
Distance women 15 km
12.5 km 1
7.5 km 10 km 12.5 km
Distance juniors 15 km 10 km 12.5 km 12.5 km
Distance juniors 12.5 km 7.5 km 10 km 10 km
Distance youth male 12.5 km 7.5 km 10 km 10 km
Distance youth female 10 km 6 km 7.5 km 7.5 km
Start interval Interval start every 30 s or 1 min Interval start every 30 s or 1 min Interval start every 15 s Simultaneous start Chase start 2 Simultaneous start
Shooting sequence lying, standing, lying, standing lying, standing lying, lying, standing, standing
Penalty for each mistake Penalty minute
45 s 1
Penalty loop
(150 m)
1 reload or penalty loop
(75 m)
Penalty loop
(150 m)
World Cup premiere 1978/79 1978/79 - 1996/97 1998/99
World championship premiere 1958 1974 - 1997 1999
Olympic premiere 1960 1980 - 2002 2006

Before the changes in 1999, the 10 km run was also called a handicap race : for every target not hit in the shooting, the athlete immediately had to complete an additional lap of around 150–180 m, which extended the running time accordingly.

1 Short individual, competition with a shortened running route in exceptional weather or snow conditions
2based on the individual (halved time interval) or sprint result; A lump-sum start time is also possible for runners who did not take part in the qualifying race

Individual competition


The individual run is the oldest biathlon discipline. Although today there are three other individual disciplines in addition to this competition with sprint, pursuit and mass start, the name “individual” has been retained for this race to this day. Its origin lies in the fact that this race was the only individual competition in biathlon until the introduction of the sprint.

The athletes start individually at an interval of 30 seconds. A total of five laps must be run, after each of the first four laps there is a shooting bout. In the individual competition, two prone and two standing shooting must be completed, which must be mastered in this competition in alternating order (prone-standing-prone-standing). In contrast to all other competitions, every shooting error is punished not with a penalty loop, but with a penalty time of one minute. This means that shooting has a higher priority in this competition than in the other competitions, where with a penalty loop of around 26 seconds, a mistake is only about half as serious. Every now and then there are surprising results in this competition, because athletes who are weaker in terms of runners but who are good shooters have a greater chance of a good result here. Conversely, it is more difficult for athletes who are good runners to compensate for the penalty time added by a shooting error while running.

Since the individual competition discipline is by far the oldest in the biathlon program, it experienced a number of rule developments in the early days. Originally there were two penalty minutes for each missed shot. From 1960 a distinction was made between missed shots (two penalty minutes) and hits on the outer ring of the target (one penalty minute). The current regulation (one penalty minute per error) was introduced in 1980. In addition, until the mid-1960s there were various shooting ranges with different distances (100 to 250 m) for the individual shooting tests.

Shortened individual competition

In "exceptional weather or snow conditions" there is the possibility of holding a shortened individual competition . The running distances are reduced to 15 km for men and 12.5 km for women, instead of a penalty minute, a penalty time of 45 seconds is charged for a shooting error. The cold temperatures at the beginning of February 2019 in Canmore , Canada, were decisive in the 2018/19 World Cup because the planned individual competitions were replaced by shortened individual competitions for the first time in the Biathlon World Cup .


In the early 1970s, another biathlon competition was created with the sprint competition. In contrast to the individual competition, the sprint consists of only three instead of five rounds and two instead of four shooting bouts. Since the sprint competition is the only discipline with only two shooting bouts, athletes with a poorer shooting performance have the best chance of a good placement here.

As in the individual competition, the biathletes start individually in a 30-second interval. After the first round, shooting is done lying down and after the second round, shooting is done standing up. Any mistake will result in a 150 meter penalty loop.

The sprint result is often doubly important at events held today, as the result achieved determines the start intervals of the pursuit race. With a bad result in the sprint race, the chances of a successful pursuit race decrease.

Super sprint

The super sprint is the latest form of biathlon competition and was first held in the IBU Cup of the 2017/18 season in Khanty-Mansiysk , Russia . The competition is divided into a qualifying race and a final.

In the qualification race, the athletes start at an interval of 15 seconds. Regardless of gender and age group, three laps of 1 km each must be completed. As in the sprint, shooting is done lying down after the first lap and standing after the second lap. One reload cartridge is available to the athletes for each shooting insert. A penalty loop of 75 m must be run for all targets that have not been hit after a maximum of six shots. The best 30 athletes will qualify for the final, which will be held on the same day.

The finals will start simultaneously, the starting position corresponds to the result of the qualification race. There are five laps of 1 km each - regardless of gender and age group. You have to shoot four times, the first two times in a lying position, the last two times in a standing position. As in the qualifying race, there is one reload cartridge available for each shooting bout, the penalty loop is also 75 m long. Scoring is in the order in which they cross the finish line.


Starting line-up for the pursuit races in January 2018 in Oberhof , in the foreground Kaisa Mäkäräinen

The pursuit race was created in the mid-1990s to make the sport of biathlon more attractive to spectators. While individual and sprint races are held against the clock, the athletes compete directly against each other in the pursuit. So the first athlete to finish is also the winner of the race. In addition, there are additional moments of tension because the athletes fight direct duels on the track and at the shooting range.

A total of five laps are run in the pursuit race. Two shooting tests each must be completed in prone and standing shooting, with a penalty loop being run immediately for each missed shot. In contrast to the individual competition, the shooting bouts do not take place in alternating order here, but first the two prone and then the two standing shoots.

The best 60 athletes of the previous sprint competition, which normally serves as qualification for the pursuit race, are entitled to start for the pursuit. The starting order and starting intervals of the pursuit are based on the times achieved in the sprint race. In rare cases, the individual race can also serve as a qualification for the pursuit. If this is the case, the arrears of the athletes on the winner will be halved, since the penalty minute in the individual is about twice as heavy as the penalty loop in the sprint.

The first placed in the sprint will be sent into the competition first in the pursuit and the timekeeping for all athletes will start at this point. The other athletes follow according to their time gap to the winner in the sprint race. For example, if a runner starts one minute behind the leader, he has to be one minute faster than the leader in the race in order to achieve the same time in the end. If an athlete from the sprint race has a large deficit on the leader from the start, top positions are difficult to achieve.

Mass start

Mass start race at the 2013 World Cup , in the foreground Mari Eder

With the mass start, the fourth individual discipline was introduced at the end of the 1990s after the individual, sprint and pursuit. The main difference to all other individual disciplines is that the 30 participating athletes all start at the same time ("as a crowd" or "in a crowd"). These 30 athletes have been in the top 25 of the current overall World Cup status at World Cup races since the 2010/11 season at the time of the competition, the remaining five places are filled up to competitors in the order of the points they have achieved in the current World Cup event. If the last qualified competitors are tied, the one who is best placed in the overall World Cup will qualify. If there are no competitors from the top 25 places, the places will be filled in the order of the placements in the current overall World Cup ranking. Up to this season, the top 30 of the overall World Cup started. At the Olympic Winter Games and Biathlon World Championships, athletes who have already won medals by the time of the mass start have the right to start immediately. 15 further starting places will be awarded after the World Cup. The remaining places are given to the most successful athletes of the respective competitions who have not yet won a medal.

Otherwise, the rules of the mass start competition correspond to those of the pursuit. A total of five laps are run, which are a little longer compared to the pursuit for the seniors. A shooting bout follows each of the first four rounds. As in the pursuit, there will be two prone and then two standing stages in the mass start. After each missed shot, the athlete must complete a penalty loop. Since the athletes will initially start in three rows of ten runners each and over the first 100 meters in classic cross-country skiing style until 2015, a wide starting lane was required for a mass start competition. For this reason, this competition could not be held at all venues. The starting phase of the competition was changed for the 2014/2015 season. From now on, the athletes started in ten rows of three, running in free technique was allowed from the start.

Mass start 60th

For the 2018/19 season , the mass start 60 was included in the IBU event and competition rules . In this competition, instead of 30, 60 athletes can now take to the track together. Instead of five, six laps are completed. After the first round, the first 30 athletes complete the first shooting in the prone position while the remaining 30 run another round. After the third round, the second shooting bout follows for all athletes, the sequence at the shooting range corresponds to that of a pursuit competition. The mass start 60 has not yet been included in the competition calendar of the World Cup; the first mass start 60 was held in Martell on March 17, 2019 as part of the IBU Cup 2018/2019 .

Team disciplines


Season Mixed relay Single mixed relay
Distance men 4 × 7.5 km 2 × 6 km + 2 × 6 km
2 × 7.5 km + 2 × 7.5 km
(MMFF) 1
6 km + 7.5 km 2
Distance women 4 × 6 km
Distance juniors 4 × 7.5 km
Distance juniors 3 × 6 km
Distance youth male 3 × 7.5 km
Distance youth female 3 × 6 km
Start interval Simultaneous start Simultaneous start Simultaneous start
Shooting sequence per athlete lying-standing per athlete lying-standing per section of the competition lying-standing
Penalty for each mistake 3 reload rounds or penalty loop
(150 m)
3 reload rounds or penalty loop
(150 m)
3 reload rounds or penalty loop
(75 m)
World Cup premiere 1978/79 2004/05 2014/15
World championship premiere 1966 2005 or 2007 2019
Olympic premiere 1968 2014 -
1This regulation has been in effect since the 2019/20 season . In winter 2018/19 the first two team members ran 6 and the last two 7.5 km, regardless of the starting order. Previously, the starting order woman-woman-man-man and the route lengths of 2 × 6 km and 2 × 7.5 km were valid
2 The length of the running laps has remained unchanged since the introduction of the simple mixed relay, since the 2018/19 season the starting order can vary, the first starter then completes the shorter and the second starter the longer route.


Norwegian team at the 2016 Junior World Championships

Although biathlon is an individual sport, relay competitions are carried out in a manner similar to athletics . In international competitions, a relay usually consists of four athletes from one nation and one gender who have to complete a distance of three laps one after the other. Relays with only three runners are used, especially in the youth sector, but also in some competitions on a continental level. The first runners start together in a mass start. Once a runner has completed his course, he hands it over to the next runner on his team in a 40 m long transition area. Any physical contact between the two runners must take place. Contact with ski poles or other objects does not count.

The relay competition consists of one prone and one standing shoot per athlete, so a total of four prone and four standing shoots (or three for juniors). In contrast to the other competitions, the athletes here have a maximum of three reloading cartridges at their disposal so that they can still hit targets that have not been hit the first time. Ten additional seconds are required for each reload. So each athlete has a maximum of eight cartridges to hit the five targets. A penalty loop must be run for each target not hit. This special regulation for the relay race was introduced in 1967. Since a mistake in the relay race is less serious than in the other disciplines, some athletes shoot much faster and riskier. This explains the sometimes weaker shooting results in the relay races.

Mixed seasons

Award ceremony for the mixed relay at the 2014 Winter Games ; Norway ahead of the Czech Republic and Italy

Since the early 1990s, various team competitions have been tried out to make biathlon more attractive.

Mixed relay

In the World Cup and World Championships, the mixed relay (also: mixed relay ) has been held over 2 × 6 km and 2 × 7.5 km since 2005 , with two positions being occupied by women and men. The rules for reloading rounds and penalty loops for a squadron remain unchanged. From the winter of 2018/19, the starting order women / men can be deviated from. So it is also possible that the men occupy the first two and the women the last two positions. From the 2019/20 season , the starting order will also determine the length of the route. If the women start, the men’s run is 6 km. When the men start, the running distance for all competitors is 7.5 km.

One of the reasons to introduce such a competition in addition to the traditional relay was the fact that many nations have good individual athletes in both men and women, but cannot provide a competitive relay with four strong athletes of the same sex. For this competition, a separate mixed world championship was held for the first time as part of the 2005 World Cup finals in Khanty-Mansiysk , and since 2007 the discipline has been part of the competition program of official biathlon world championships and Olympics.

Single mixed relay

The single-mixed relay (also: simple mixed relay ) was first held on February 6, 2015 in Nové Město, Czech Republic, as part of a World Cup. In contrast to the mixed relay, only one woman and one man per nation form a team. One lap is 1.5 km, but the penalty loop is only 75 m. After two laps, the woman hands over to the male team member immediately after the second shooting. He has to cover another 2 × 1.5 km and hands it over to the woman immediately after the second shooting. This must complete a total of 6 km, the man runs an additional 1.5 km lap after his fourth and last shooting before he reaches the finish line. This results in the same total distance per athlete as in the other relays. During the waiting period, the athletes' skis may be prepared again, but they are not allowed to be exchanged.

As in the mixed season , it has been possible since winter 2018/19 for men to start the season and women to end it. In the case of the simple mixed relay, however, this means that the men only have to run a distance of 6 km, while the women have to complete the longer distance of 7.5 km.

Biathlon Auf Schalke in the Veltins-Arena

Another example of the mixed relay is the World Team Challenge , which has been held in the Veltins Arena ( Gelsenkirchen ) since 2002 . Mixed relays, each consisting of a man and a woman, alternate several times over a distance of 15 km. In contrast to the World Cup, relays with athletes from different nations are allowed in the World Team Challenge.

As part of the German Biathlon Championships, which always take place on roller skis in September / October due to the off-season situation, mixed relays are also carried out, which consist of two male players and one female participant. These then each have to carry out the scope of a sprint race.

Team competition

In the 1990s, attempts were made to establish another team competition with the team competition in addition to the relay race. In contrast to the relay, the athletes did not run one after the other, but together.

A team was formed by four athletes from one nation who had to run a total of five laps of 20 kilometers (men) or 15 kilometers (women). There were four shooting tests to be completed (lying-standing-lying-standing), whereby only one athlete was allowed to shoot at the five targets at each shooting insert. The rest of the team waited for the end of the shot, for each missed shot a penalty loop of 300 meters was run together. The timekeeping at the finish was triggered by the last team member, the distance between the first and the last runner could not be more than 50 meters or 15 seconds.

The rules of this competition were changed several times, but the team competition could not prevail. After the introduction of the mass start race in the late 1990s, the team competition was no longer held.


Compared to other endurance sports, doping cases are reported less often in biathlon. Nevertheless, there have been some doping offenses and allegations in the professional sector over the years, which led to different consequences and measures.

Proven doping agents

In the 2002/03 season, the Russian Albina Achatowa tested positive for nikethamide . The banned stimulating substance was detected in the B-sample of the relay World Cup race on January 24th. A Russian team doctor had injected Achatova with the drug Cordiamini , which contains the substance, immediately after crossing the finish line and before the doping control . Achatowa had collapsed after crossing the finish line, and according to the doctor, the drug was used to stabilize Achatowa's circulation. Although Nikethamid is on the IBU doping list, the Russian team doctor was charged with the crime and Achatova was not punished with a ban. The doctor was banned by the IBU for three months, and the IBU withdrew the subsidy of 50,000 euros for one year from the Russian association.

During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin , the Russian Olga Pyljowa was found to have the stimulant Carphedon in a positive A and B sample taken from her after the individual race on February 13, 2006 . According to Pyljowa, after she twisted her neck before the pursuit race on January 13, 2006 in Ruhpolding, her private doctor administered phenotropile tablets . On the afternoon of February 16, 2006, Pyljowa was disqualified from the IOC and excluded from the Winter Olympics. In addition, she was stripped of the silver medal she had reached in the individual race on February 13, 2006. The IBU banned Pylyova on February 17, 2006 for two years until February 12, 2008.

Doping became a recurring theme in the 2007/08 season. The switch of the former Finnish cross-country skier Kaisa Varis to biathlon was viewed critically right from the start. After evidence of EPO doping in 2003 and a two-year ban, the Finn switched to biathlon in summer 2006 because she had not been nominated for the 2006 Winter Olympics by the Finnish NOK in cross-country skiing. In the 2007/08 World Cup season, Varis started regularly in the World Cup and surprisingly won the sprint race in Ruhpolding on January 11, 2008. On January 24, it was announced that the urine sample taken after the Oberhof mass start race on January 6 had tested positive for EPO. After the B-sample also gave a positive result, Varis was banned for life as a repeat offender on February 11, 2008 by the IBU and all results achieved after the Oberhof mass start were canceled. In the meantime, however, the ban has been lifted.

Also in 2009 three biathletes tested positive. Dmitri Jaroshenko , Jekaterina Jurjewa and again Albina Achatowa tested positive at the World Cup opener in Östersund, but this could only be proven during the course of the season using new test methods.

At the 2014 Winter Olympics , the forbidden substance methylhexanamine was detected in the A and B samples of the German biathlete Evi Sachsenbacher-Stehle . Sachsenbacher-Stehle stated that she unconsciously ingested the drug through a dietary supplement that she received from a private nutritionist.

Suspected doping

The raid on the Austrian biathletes' team quarters during the Olympic Games on February 18, 2006 caused a further stir. The biathletes Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottmann found syringes, drugs and devices for transfusions and blood tests. After the search, both athletes left Italy, whereupon they were expelled from the Austrian Olympic team. On February 24th, the IOC announced that the samples taken from all ten Austrian athletes tested were negative. Although both biathletes protested their innocence, they announced their retirement from competitive sports in March 2006. About a year after the Olympic Games, the IOC decided on April 25, 2007 to revoke Rottmann and Perner for the results achieved in Turin and to exclude both athletes from participating in further Olympic Games for life. In its final report in July 2007, the Austrian Ski Association confirmed that Rottmann and Perner had practiced blood doping and also banned both athletes for life. In January 2008, the IBU also imposed a ban on Rottmann until July 15, 2009.

Suspicion of German biathletes

The German team was also affected by doping allegations and suspicions in the 2007/08 season. On January 9th, the Austrian courier reported for the first time about the Vienna blood bank Humanplasma, where athletes from different sports allegedly did blood doping. According to ARD reports, they include German biathletes, some of whom are among the best in the world. Since neither the names of suspected athletes nor concrete evidence were published, the German Ski Association initiated legal action against the journalists responsible for ARD reporting. Hajo Seppelt , ARD doping expert, put it into perspective that it was “more about past cases” and that “the DSV is currently not suspected of actively supporting blood doping or of having sent its athletes to Vienna”. At the beginning of the broadcast from Antholz on January 17th, ARD presenter Michael Antwerpes apologized for "journalistic errors" in the ARD reporting. Before the start of the world championships in Östersund, the biathletes of the DSV affirmed in an affidavit that they had never had contact with the suspected Viennese blood bank.

Another sensation caused an anonymous report to the Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office and the Vienna Public Prosecutor's Office, which is said to have been sent to several Austrian journalists by email. The complaint is directed against doctors working at the Vienna blood bank for human plasma. The Tiroler Tageszeitung reported for the first time on February 14, 2008 about the ad, in which both active and former German and Austrian biathletes are named as customers of the Vienna Blood Bank. The former Austrian skier Stephan Eberharter and two editors of the Austrian newspaper Kurier , who were named in the advertisement as witnesses, denied any involvement. The DSV filed a complaint against unknown persons for defamation. Press spokesman Stephan Schwarzbach announced that all German athletes will make an affidavit that they have never done doping or have never done so.

Legal performance increase

Neurofeedback is used in the training of the shooting component in top-class sport in order to be able to score reliably in sports with high balance components and steady hands (e.g. sport shooting , archery , biathlon). The calm when shooting despite the high pulse frequency due to the immediately preceding endurance performance represents a special challenge in biathlon.

Related sports

In addition to biathlon as a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting, there are a few other related sports.

The summer biathlon is a combination of running or roller skiing and shooting . In Germany , competitions without the use of roller skis are organized by the German Schützenbund , among others . The priority of these competitions is mostly running rather than shooting. World Cups and European Cups are also held, but they are hardly noticed by the public. The world championships were organized by the IBU until 2009, since 2011 there have only been European championships in this sub-discipline.

Franziska Hildebrand at the German Championships 2015

Roller skibiathlon is a variant of summer biathlon, which is mainly used by winter biathletes in summer training. The mode of the competitions is comparable to the races in winter, only that roller skis are used here. Every year Summer Biathlon World Championships organized the German Championships in biathlon are in September of each year DSV organized.

The rules of archery biathlon are similar to those of the actual winter biathlon. However, shooting is done with a bow and arrow. The competitions were originally also organized by the IBU . The International Archery Federation ( FITA ) has been responsible for this sport since April 1, 2005 .

The arc running is a combination of skiing and archery .

The motorcycle biathlon is a combination of motocross and shooting . This sport is mainly practiced in eastern Germany .

Bikebiathlon is the combination of mountain biking and the shooting that is typical of biathlon. The competition disciplines of biathlon, i.e. sprint, pursuit and mixed relay, are modeled on off-road courses.

The relatively new modern biathlon is a combination of a modern endurance sport with a modern precision sport. The modern biathlon is usually carried out as a combination of cross-skating and light point rifle shooting. Combination competitions of mountain biking or cross-country running with light point rifle shooting also take place.

Despite the similarity of names, biathlon is not related to biathle (combined sport running-swimming-running).

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Biathlon  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Biathlon  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on November 27, 2005 .