Biathlon combines the power and aggression of cross-country skiing with the precision and calm of marksmanship.
Roots in survival
The word biathlon stems from the Greek word for two contests, and is today seen as the joining of two sports; skiing and shooting. Biathlon has its roots in survival skills practised in the snow-covered forests of Scandinavia, where people hunted on skis with rifles slung over their shoulders.
Standardising the rules
In 1948, the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne et Biathlon (UIPMB) was founded, to standardise the rules for biathlon and pentathlon. In 1993, the biathlon branch of the UIPMB created the International Biathlon Union (IBU), which officially separated from the UIPMB in 1998.
Biathlon-type events in Scandinavia are known to have been held as early as the 18th century. The first modern biathlon probably occurred in 1912 when the Norwegian military organised the Forvarsrennet in Oslo. An annual event, it consisted initially of a 17km cross-country ski race with two-minute penalties incurred by misses in the shooting part of the competition.
Biathlon was staged at the 1948 Winter Games in St Moritz as a demonstration sport. At the time, it combined cross-country and downhill skiing, shooting, fencing and equestrian events. Inspired by modern pentathlon, it was the first attempt to introduce a multi-disciplinary event. It was included on the Olympic programme in Squaw Valley in 1960. Women’s biathlon was organised as a medal sport in Albertville in 1992.
Until the 1976 Games in Innsbruck, the events comprised an individual race and a relay. In Lake Placid in 1980, a second individual event was introduced.
In Salt Lake City in 2002, a 12.5km pursuit event was added for men and 10km for women. From Turin in 2006, a new mass-start event was introduced for both men and women. This brings together the 30 best athletes from the World Cup.
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