Biathlon is a wintersport that involves both cross-country skiing and shooting a rifle. It is treated as a race where the contestant with the shortest total time wins. However, there are different types of competitions when it comes to this sport. For instance, missed shots result in extra distance or time being added to the contestant’s total. The sport finds its origins in Scandinavian culture and Norse mythology but more about that below.

Biathlon Intro
Welcome to Biathlon

All competitions for this sporting event are organized by the International Biathlon Union or IBU. From 1998, IBU became a stand-alone organization charged to only organize and control events that are connected to this sport. For more information on the matter, please check their official website.

History of Biathlon

As we mentioned above, the first records of biathlon date back thousands of years. Early inhabitants of Scandinavia revered the Norse god Ullr as both the ski god and the hunting god. However, in modern times, the use of this sport was quite different. It began as an exercise for Norwegian people that was an alternative training for the military. The army organized several different military skiing contests during winter. An event which included skiing and shooting was part of those contests.

As a sport, Biathlon was initially called military patrol. As such it was contested in the 1924 Winter Olympics. It became a part of them in the next 3 editions as well. However, the sport wasn’t very popular at the moment. The reason was because the competing countries couldn’t agree on the rules. That’s why the sport was removed from the Winter Olympics. Nevertheless, in the 1950’s Biathlon was introduced in the Soviet and the Swedish wintersports. The public really enjoyed it and it became very popular.

This new found popularity finally allowed Biathlon to become a part of the Olympic Games in 1960. During the years, the competition changed the types of cartridges competitors used several times. Finally, the .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge was standardized in 1978. In the start, it was only one event known as 20km individual. However, with time, Biathlon became one of the most popular wintersports in the world.

Rules & Equipment

The basic concept of Biathlon is rather simple. It’s a race of skiing and shooting. The competitor with the fastest total time wins the race. However, we need to go into details as to explain some of the rules. The contestants ski through a cross-country trail system. Depending on the distance, there can be 2 or 4 shooting rounds. Half of the rounds need to be in prone position while the other half in a standing position. Depending on the shooting performance, extra distance or time is added to the contestant’s total skiing distance/time.

In each shooting round the biathlon athlete needs to hit 5 targets. There will be a penalty for each missed target. That penalty varies depending on the competition rules. These are the possible penalties:

  • Skiing around a 150 meters penalty loop.
  • Adding one minute to the skier’s total time.
  • Use of an extra cartridge to hit the target. Only three such extras are available for each round.


The biathlon athlete carries a small rifle which has to weigh at least 3.5 kg. This excludes the magazines and the ammunition. Each rifle holds 4 magazines and there are 4 rounds in each magazine. The target range shooting distance is 50 m. There are five circular shooting targets to be hit in each shooting round. While pruning, the target diameter is 45mm. However, when shooting while standing, the diameter is 115mm.


On all modern biathlon ranges, the targets are self-indicating, in that they flip from black to white when hit, giving the biathlete, as well as the spectators, instant visual feedback for each shot fired. Additional equipment includes ear protection and eye cups. However, these are optional and don’t have to be used.


As we mentioned above, all competitions are handled by the International Biathlon Union (IBU). There are Olympics, World Championships, the World Cup, the IBU Cup, etc. However, all these tournaments have various Biathlon formats. The 20km individual event is the most popular one. However, there are several others that require mentioning.

  • Individual
  • Sprint
  • Super Sprint
  • Pursuit
  • Mass Start
  • Mass Start 60
  • Relay
  • Mixed Relay
  • Team (Obsolete)

All of these formats are part of Biathlon and are similar to each other. Nevertheless, each event brings a different kind of thrill. To find out more about the different types and find the best markets/odds, check our Bitcoin Sportsbook.