The individual and team biathlon events on show at the Youth Olympic Games this January. Burning muscles and ice-cold nerves, there is no sport quite like Biathlon.
Competitors must master the contrasting elements of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting in this all-encompassing event. That requires both endurance and pin-point accuracy – no easy feat when your heart is racing at around 180 beats per minute.
This exhausting all-body workout has a history dating back to the 18th century, while is has been a regular fixture at the Winter Olympics since 1960. With regards to the sport’s future, the next generation will be out to ski and shoot their way to gold at the Youth Olympic Games this January.
The biathlon will take place in Les Tuffes, France, from January 11 to 15.
The four Biathlon events
There will be four different Biathlon events taking place at Lausanne 2020.
The men’s and women’s individual competition is the most traditional format. Men ski 12.5km and women 10km, and it is broken up by four rounds of shooting – alternating between the prone and standing position. A missed target equates to one minute added to an athlete’s overall time. The lowest time, including penalties, wins.
The sprint sees men ski 7.5km and women 6km, with just two rounds of shooting. First in the prone position, and then standing. Unlike the individual competition, one missed target in the sprint equates to one 150-metre penalty loop.
With five targets to aim for in each bout, landing all 10 shots is often vital if an athlete wants to post the fastest time.
The mixed team relay features four athletes per nation, with the race order of woman-woman-man-man. A mass start is used in the mixed team relay, unlike the individual and sprint which both use interval starts – usually 30 seconds.
The mixed team relays follows similar rules to the sprint with women skiing 6km and men 7.5km, while the 150m penalty loop is also in place.
All athletes have two rounds of shooting at five targets, with three extra shots per bout if required, while it is the team the crosses the line first who wins.
Long distances, fine margins
Never mind the cross-country skiing, the distance is also considerable when it comes to the rifle shooting. With the heart pounding, chest heaving, and eyesight unsteady, athletes must aim at a target 50m away.
When standing, that target is 115mm in diameter, and that drops to a minuscule 45mm when shooting in the prone position. It therefore means that a sport which covers kilometres of cross-country trails can come down to a matter of millimetres on the range.
This was on show at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer when Emilien Claude took gold ahead of Sivert Guttorm Bakken. Claude produced a flawless shooting display, and ultimately finished 7.1 seconds ahead of Bakken, whose two misses forced him into two costly 150m penalty loops.
A perfect performance on the range also allowed Juliane Fruhwirt to claim gold ahead of Marthe Krakstad Johansen – who missed just once and finished less than six seconds to clinch silver.
Full Biathlon schedule at Lausanne 2020
Saturday, January 11
10:30 - 12:05 Women’s Individual Competition 10km
13:30 - 15:15 Men’s Individual Competition 12.5km
Sunday, January 12
10:30 - 11:40 Single Mixed Relay
Tuesday, January 14
10:30 - 11:55 Women’s Sprint 6km
13:30 - 15:00 Men’s Sprint 7.5km
Wednesday, January 15
10:30 - 12:35 Mixed Relay