The Biathlon is an obscure winter that many people only see during the Winter Olympic season. The average person may have many questions about the sport. Here are some answers as well as the schedule of Biathlon events for the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
How The Biathlon Works
Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, making it a unique challenge of endurance and technical ability. Competitors ski a predetermined distance with the goal of achieving the fastest overall time. Along the way, they must stop and shoot at targets 50 m (160 ft.) away. Some stations require the competitors to shoot at targets 4.5 in. wide from a standing position or targets 1.8 in wide from a prone position on one’s belly.
The key? Each time competitors miss a target, they receive an additional time or distance penalty. While biathlon may not grab the most headlines, it boasts 11 separate events, meaning a total of 33 medals are up for grabs.
Since biathlon joined the Winter Olympics in 1960, Germany has amassed 45 medals in the event, the most of any nation. Norway follows with 35 medals, and Russia has accumulated 24.
Here’s a breakdown of biathlon event and when they are scheduled to take place. Times have been adjusted to Eastern Standard Time compensate for the 14 hour difference between the U.S. and South Korea.
Men’s and Women’s Sprint
As you might expect, this is the shortest of the biathlon competitions. The men’s event covers 10 km, while the women’s covers 7.5 km. The athletes must stop two times and shoot at five targets at each stoppage. For each miss, competitors must ski a 150 meter penalty loop before continuing on the course.
- Men’s event: Feb. 11, 6:15 a.m. EST
- Women’s event: Feb. 10, 6:15 a.m. EST
Men’s and Women’s Pursuit
Those who finish in the top 60 of the sprint face a quick turnaround for the pursuit event, which covers 12.5 km for men and 10 km for women. The competitors’ finishes in the sprint competition determine the order in which they start the pursuit. The top finisher begins the race first, followed by second place and so on. This race features four stoppages at shooting ranges, with the same 150 m penalty as the sprint.
- Men’s event: Feb. 12, 5:10 a.m. EST
- Women’s event: Feb. 12, 7:00 a.m. EST
Men’s and Women’s Individual
This is the original biathlon event—20 km for men, 15 km for women. Skiers stop to shoot at the targets four times, and each miss results in a one-minute time penalty.
- Men’s event: Feb. 15, 6:00 a.m. EST
- Women’s event: Feb. 14, 6:05 a.m. EST
Men’s and Women’s Mass Start
The mass start debuted at the 2006 Games and features the top 30 finishing competitors from previous biathlon competitions at that year’s games. Those 30 all start at once for the 15 km race for men, 12.5 km race for women. Each race features four stoppages at the shooting ranges.
- Men’s event: Feb. 18, 6:15 a.m. EST
- Women’s event: Feb. 17, 6:15 a.m. EST
Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed Relay
The relays each feature four competitor from a nation—the mixed competition, which debuted in Sochi 2014, features two men and two women. The women race a 6 meter course, while the men race a 7.5 meter course. Each course features two shooting rounds. As with any relay race, once one competitor finishes his or her portion of the race, the next teammate can begin.
One unique feature of this race: competitors MUST hit all five targets at the shooting range. If one fails to hit a target, he or she can reload up to three times to try to hit it. The competitor must then ski the 150 m penalty loop if this task is failed.
- Men’s event: Feb. 23, 6:15 a.m. EST
- Women’s event: Feb. 22, 6:15 a.m. EST
- Mixed event: Feb. 20, 6:15 a.m. EST
How to Watch The Biathlon
As you can tell, the times of this event aren’t particularly conducive to most American television viewing schedules, as will be the case for a sizable portion of the games. While official TV listings are forthcoming and will certainly include tape-delayed events, you’ll be able to live stream more than 1,800 hours of Olympic coverage online, including biathlon competitions.
For Cord-Cutters, here’s a list of services that allow you to stream the Olympics:
For more details about these services and details about the Olympic Games, visit our main 2018 Winter Olympics page.