All about the biathlon

All about the biathlon

Are you looking for a sport that combines endurance and concentration while working on your accuracy? Find out all abou the biathlon!

Are you looking for a sport that combines endurance and concentration while working on your accuracy? The biathlon is for you! Discover all the events, the equipment and the basic rules of this sport to learn everything you need to know before taking the plunge!

All about the biathlon

What is a biathlon?

Biathlon comes from the Greek word which originally means: "2 events", and this is now the name of a sport that mixes two practices. It combines cross-country ski racing and rifle shooting.

In other words, to aim well you need to be able to control your heart rate. Especially since the shooting can be done standing or lying down. Lying down means: lying in the snow with skis still on. This requires flexibility. But the ground support provides some stability which can make shooting easier. 

The Nordic ski used for biathlon depends on the choice of the racer but most choose skating. Tired already? Please note that the rifles carried by the biathletes throughout the course must weigh at least 3.2kg.

How do the biathlon shooting sessions work?

Whatever the event, the shooting moments are always the same: 5 targets are positioned at a distance of 50m. A magazine of 5 bullets is loaded into the weapon by the athlete to hit each target. If he misses one or more targets, he is penalised either by adding one minute to his time or by having to complete additional laps before resuming the event. In some events additional bullets, 3 in number, are available but they must be loaded one by one into the rifle.

Depending on the shooting position, the size of the targets varies:

All about the biathlon

- The target for the standing shot is an 11.5 cm disc.

- The prone target is an 11.5 cm disc, but in reality only the central 4.5 cm diameter part is active.

So finally, biathlon is a very complete sport that makes the muscles and the brain work intensely and requires an unfailing concentration for the shooting sessions.

All about the biathlon

Relay, individual, sprint etc., discover the main biathlon events

Biathlon is usually discussed during the Olympic Games. But the discipline is divided into several events for men, women and mixed. In the biathlon, speed is essential but if targets are missed during the shooting, this results in time penalties or extra rounds.

All about the biathlon

The individual event

The individual event consists of 15 km, i.e. 5 times 3 km and 4 shots, for women, and 20 km, i.e. 5 times 4 km and 5 shots, for men. The shots alternate between lying down and standing up. Each missed target in the shooting event results in a one-minute penalty, so you'd better be a good shot! It is the oldest biathlon event and the only one to impose a time penalty rather than extra laps and to alternate prone/standing shots. Competitors start every 30 seconds.  


The sprint is 7.5 km long for women and 10 km for men. The courses consist of 2 shots (standing, prone) and are divided into 3 loops of 2.5 km for women, 3 loops of 3.3 km for men. Missed shots are penalised by an extra 150 metres.


The chase is aptly named: The start of each participant depends on the time achieved during the sprint preceding it, and the winner is the one who crosses the finish line first. This obviously favours the best sprinters. For women, it consists of 10 km, with five 2-km loops, and for men, it is 12.5 km long. The 4 shots of the event are done in the order lying, lying, standing, standing.

All about the biathlon

Mass starts

Mass start events are events where the competitors are all on the start line at the same time. The women will run 5 loops of 2.5 km for a total of 12.5 km and the men 5 loops of 3 km for a total of 15 km. The 4 shots of the event are done in the order lying, lying, standing, standing. In the event of a missed shot, the competitor must make an additional 150-metre turn 

The super sprint

The super sprint selects the 30 best biathletes during a first individual qualification event consisting of 3 loops of 1km with 2 shots: 1 Lying down 1 Standing Participants receive one spare bullet per shot and then a 75m round as a penalty for each missed target. 

The top 30 finishers from this event then set off on a mass start to complete 5 loops of 1km, and 4 shots (prone, prone, standing, standing). The rules for shooting and penalties are the same as in the previous round.

All about the biathlon

How do spare bullets work?

Spare bullets, often 3 in number, are bullets that can be loaded manually, one by one, into the rifle in case of a misfire in addition to the 5 pellet cartridge. So they allow additional shots. But the athlete must take the time to reload his weapon bullet by bullet. It is therefore a somewhat mixed advantage...

The relay deserves its own box

Yes, because the relay is run by women, men and mixed. This leads to a number of variations of this event.
Let's start with the women's 4x6 km relay, each leg of the relay consists of 3 loops of 2 km with 2 shots (prone, standing) for each biathlete. Each shot allows 3 spare bullets and 1 round of 150 penalty per target missed.
Then comes the men's 4x7.5 relay, each athlete runs 3 loops of 2.5 km and performs 2 shots (prone, standing). The penalty system is identical to that of the women's relay.
Then we have the mixed relays.
The mixed relay allows a team of 2 men and 2 women to race. The women start first to complete 3 loops of 2km each with 2 shots: lying, standing For the shooting, the penalties are the same as for the classic relays.
The men then do 3 loops of 2.5 km and of course the 2 shots in the same order.
The "mixed singled" relay is more complex! Created in recent years, this event involves a team of one man and one woman. But rather than taking turns when the women's event is over, they alternate between a women's mass start for 2 loops of 1.5 km and 2 shots (prone, standing), then the men take over for the same programme. The women then do the same thing and the men finish with 3 loops of 1.5 km and still 2 shots (lying down, standing up).In case of a missed shot the penalty is the same for all: An additional 150 metres per missed target.

All about the biathlon

How to equip yourself for biathlon.

As you can see, biathlon is a demanding sport during which one alternates intense effort with moments of calm and concentration. And when you have to shoot lying down on the snow, it is important not to be cold.
The upper and lower parts of the body will have different needs, not least because their perspiration levels are not the same. The 3-layer method is often used in sliding sports. But cross-country skiing is an intense sport for which it is advisable to be well equipped but above all not to have too many layers of clothing.
Soft, breathable underwear with good range of motion and a breathable windproof jacket are usually enough to ski in good conditions. And if you are worried about lack of warmth you can add an extra layer to your outfit but this should be adapted according to the intensity of your practice.
Focus on the upper body:
The upper body sweats a lot more and if the sweat is not properly evacuated, you risk getting wet and cold as soon as you slow down, or during shooting sequences.
So, in addition to the underwear, you'll be looking for windproof clothing at the front to protect your body from the wind on downhill runs, or from the cold of the snow for prone shots, and breathable at the back to avoid sweat accumulating on your back.

All about the biathlon

Box : do you need your own rifle to start biathlon?

If you are a beginner or on a biathlon course, the rifle will be lent to you. If you really get into the game and have the means and desire to acquire one, you can. But for safety reasons it is of course advisable to train with a laser rifle first before buying the 22 long rifle and the corresponding ammunition.

All about the biathlon

Why and how to take up biathlon?

Are you looking to challenge yourself physically and mentally? You will have understood that biathlon is THE sport for you! That said, if you want to progress easily, you will need to master cross-country skiing first. Whether it's ski-wheeling or running, in summer you can work on your endurance and heart rate. Then, a few lessons with a teacher should allow you to acquire the right reflexes to move forward efficiently without exhausting yourself.
If you join a club, the rifle can be loaned to you to get started. Today, we start shooting with a laser rifle that allows us to learn how to aim, and to apprehend the use of a weapon without risk.
If you want to try out the activity before taking the plunge, you can take an introductory course lasting a few hours, or a one-day course in a ski resort, supervised by a professional.

All about the biathlon

Where can you do biathlon?

You are looking for a ski resort that offers biathlon courses or the infrastructure to practice. You're in luck, because the sport has become much more popular in recent years, resulting in the development of numerous courses and shooting ranges even in small resorts.
However, in areas that already had cross-country ski trails, there are many opportunities for biathlon.
The Jura, the Vosges, but also the resorts of the Alps propose via the ski schools, initiations or training courses to allow you to discover the discipline before being able to launch you alone.

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