The International Biathlon Union (IBU) was founded in 1993. Biathlon made its Olympic debut at the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Games.
There are ten biathlon events, each of which is scored by time. Men and women compete in a sprint, pursuit, individual, mass start and relay. During the sprint, women race 7.5km and men race 10km. Competitors stop twice and must hit five targets with five bullets each time. For each target missed, athletes take a lap around the 150m penalty loop. The top 60 finishers of this competition qualify for the pursuit.
In the pursuit, the competitors start at intervals based on their finishing time in the sprint competition. Since 2002, women have raced 10km and men have raced 12.5km. Competitors stop four times and then must hit all five targets with five bullets. For each target missed, athletes take a lap around the 150m penalty loop.
In the individual event, women race 15km and men race 20km. All competitors stop four times at the firing range and must hit all five targets with five bullets. For each target missed, one minute is added to their total time.
The relay is a fast-paced team event in which four-person teams tackle four 7.5km legs for a total of 30km for the men and four 6-km-legs for a total of 24km for the women. It begins with a mass start by the first skiers of their respective teams. Each team member has two firing sequences and is allowed three extra bullets (a total of eight) to hit five targets at each shooting stage, yet must load the three extra bullets one by one. For each target left standing, competitors ski a lap around the 150m penalty loop.
Mass start events
The mass start, an individual competition, was added to the Olympic programme in 2006. It is the most race-like event, with all 30 competitors starting at the same time. The starters are made up from all previous medal winners during the Olympic Games and the top athletes in the World Cup. Women race 12.5 km and men race 15 km. They stop 4 times at the shooting range where they must hit five targets with five bullets. For each target missed, the athletes take a lap around the 150m penalty loop.