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Biathlon (not to be confused with duathlon) is a term used to describe any sporting event made up of two disciplines. Biathlon, however, usually refers specifically to the winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Another popular variant is summer biathlon, which combines cross-country running with riflery.

Unsurprisingly, biathlon events are broadcast most regularly where the sport enjoys its greatest popularity, namely Germany (ARD, ZDF), Norway (NRK), Finland (YLE), Sweden (SVT), Russia (RTR), Belarus (TVR), Slovenia (RTV), Estonia (ETV), and Bulgaria (BNT); it is also broadcast on European-wide Eurosport. Some events are broadcast on U.S. cable channel OLN.

The broadcast distribution being one indicator, the constellation of a sport’s main sponsors usually gives a similar, and correlated, indication of popularity: for biathlon, these are the Germany-based companies E.ON Ruhrgas (energy), Krombacher (beer), and Viessmann (boilers and other heating systems).

Concise history

The sport has its origins in an exercise for Norwegian soldiers. The first known competition took place in 1767 when border patrol companies competed against each other. Gradually 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 (see also Governing body, below). During the mid-1950s, however, biathlon was introduced into the Russian and Swedish winter sport circuits and was widely enjoyed by the public. This newfound popularity aided the effort of having biathlon gain entry into the Winter Olympics, where it has later become one of the most cherished sports.

The first World Championship in biathlon was held in 1958 in Austria, and in 1960 the sport was finally included in the Olympic Games. At Albertville in 1992, women were first allowed in Olympic biathlon.

The competitions from 1958 to 1965, using NATO calibers of 3.08mm, then a Large bore 0.223 before the 0.22LR (5.56mm) was standardized in 1978. The ammounition was carried in a belt worn around the competitor’s waist. With the only competiton being the Men’s 20km Individual, four different ranges and firing distances of 100m, 150m, 200m, and 250m. The distance was reduced to a single 150m station with the addition of the Relay in 1966. The shooting range was further reduced to a single 50m station in 1978 with the mechanical targets being making their debut at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

Governing body

In 1948, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon (UIPMB) was founded, to standardise the rules for biathlon and modern pentathlon. In 1993, the biathlon branch of the UIPMB created the International Biathlon Union (IBU), which officially separated from the UIPMB in 1998.

Presidents of the UIPMB/IBU:

1948–1949: Tom Wiborn (Sweden)
1949–1960: Gustaf Dyrssen (Sweden)
1960–1988: Sven Thofelt, (Sweden)
1988–1992: Igor Novikov (USSR/Russia)
From  1992: Anders Besseberg (Norway)


The following articles list major international biathlon events and medalists. Contrary to the Olympics and World Championships (BWCH), the World Cup (BWC) is an entire winter season of (mostly) weekly races, where the medalists are those with the highest sums of World Cup points at the end of the season.

Biathlon Olympic Games
Biathlon World Championships
Biathlon World Cup

Biathlon venues

World Cup events and World Championships in biathlon have traditionally been held at the following relatively few locations. (Due to the complicated shooting range equipment, which absolutely has to work in order to hold successful races, biathlon is a highly demanding sport for organisers.)

Other Biathlon variants

Two common variations on biathlon are summer biathlon, where skiing is replaced by a cross-country run, and archery biathlon (or ski archery), where the rifle is replaced by a recurve bow. There have also been summer competitions in roller-ski biathlon, mountain bike biathlon and orienteering biathlon.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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