What is Biathlon?

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Understanding Biathlon

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Understanding Biathlon:

Competition Format

There are three race events in Biathlon, each with different distances, rules, and penalties. There is the Individual race, Sprint race, and the Relay format. Distances for the men are different from those of the women as described below.

 

Individual Competition

The individual competition involves more endurance during skiing and greater body control at the range than in the shorter distances. Men ski a total of 20K and the women ski a total of 15km. The athletes start individually at one minute intervals. The athletes ski five loops ranging from 2.5k to 5k, and shoot five shots at four stages for a total of twenty shots. The individual competition requires the athletes to pace themselves, saving energy for the final loop. A one minute penalty for every missed shot is added to the athletes ski time at the completion of the race, for a total of twenty possible penalty minutes if all the shots were missed. For the spectator, this event involves more range action and it is often exciting towards the end of the race to see who can remain calm enough to shoot well. The winner is the athlete with the fastest ski time in combination with the fewest penalty minutes.

 

Sprint Competition

The sprint competition requires an athlete to ski hard because of the short distance, but still remain calm at the range, for a penalty loop for each miss can really hurt an overall time. The men ski a total of 10k and the women 7.5k. The athletes start individually at one minute intervals. The competitors ski a loop, shoot five rounds in the prone positions, ski a 150m penalty loop for each missed shot, and then ski another loop. The competitor will then shoot five rounds in the standing position, ski a 150m loop for each missed shot and then ski a final loop to the finish. Therefore, since all the penalties have been skied during the race, the penalty time is already included in the ski time when the racer crosses the finish line. During this short race, the competitors ski a total of three ski loops ranging from 1.75k to 3.75k, and shoot two shooting stages for a total of 10 shots. Each penalty loop takes approximately 30 seconds to ski. Spectators should remember that the racer is only shooting once in each of the positions, prone and standing, thus the scores for each of these are extremely important.

 

Relay Competition

The relay competition is the easiest to follow. All teams start simultaneously and ski the same course. The mens relay is 4 loops of 7.5k each (4 X 7.5k) and the womens relay is 3 X5k. The first leg of each team starts at the same time, and then continues to tag off to successive legs until the whole team has raced. Each individual is run the same as the sprint race, sxcept the racers get to use extra rounds in the range.

Competitors have eight bullets to hit five targets at both the prone and standing stages. When racers ski into the range, they dump three extra rounds out of their magazine into a small cup before they begin shooting. They will then proceed to attempt to hit all five targets with the normal five rounds. If they miss any, they will then load rounds from their cup into the chamber until they have hit all five targets, or used up all three extra rounds, whichever comes first.

If the competitors still have not hit all five targets, they must ski a penalty loop for each missed shot. There is a tag zone where each skier, when completing a segment of the relay, touches the next teammate, who then starts the next segment. The winning team is the one whose last leg is the first to cross the finish line.

 

Range Procedure

The following paragraphs describe what is known as Range Procedure. A brief definition of this procedure is: the time it takes to enter the firing range, unsling the rifle, shoot five rounds, resling the rifle and exit the range in the shortest time possible. While on the ski course, competitors exert themselves tot he point of maintaining intensity levels over 90% of maximum effort, with heart rates of 170 to 190 beats per minute. As they approach the range area, skiing speed is slowed to reduce heavy breathing in preparation for shooting. Once the athlete approaches a vacant firing point, the rifle is taken off the back, the snow covers protecting the sights are flipped off, and the shooting position is taken. At that time, the five round magazine is inserted into the rifle and the bolt is closed. The athlete now takes final aim and fires the first shot. The bolt must be opened to eject the spent round and closed to chamber a live round for each shot. After the last shot has been fired, the athlete will close the snow covers again, shoulder the rifle, pick up the ski poles, and continue with the next loop. The time it takes to come into the range and accomplish all this is called range time and world class range times average about 30-40 seconds for prone, and 23-35 seconds for standing.

 

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A Spectators Guide to Biathlon

Athletes usually arrive one to two hours prior to their scheduled start to sight in their rifles and complete the wax preparation of their skis. One hour prior to the start of the race, the range is opened for rifle zeroing (sighting in) on paper targets. Athletes fire onto paper targets during this critical preparation and make adjustments to their sights for the sun and wind conditions of the day.

After zeroing, skis are glide tested and the fastest skis are chosen for racing. About 30 minutes prior to the start, athletes warm up for the competition. This usually consists of skiing several short loops at a speed close to what an athlete expects to be racing at. Competitions usually start between 10am and 2pm.

In a well designed biathlon stadium, the start/finish area, shooting range and the penalty loop are all visible to the spectator from a single location. This is generally the most exciting place to watch from and the easiest place to determine who is doing well in the race.

The competitor's time starts running when the athlete starts, and stops when he or she crosses the finish line. Time allowances are not given for stopping to shoot, falling down while skiing or failing to start on time. Lost rounds are the responsibility of the athlete. The athlete, in the event of lost rounds or misfires, carries extra rounds.

Rifles are loaded only at the range when they are pointing at the target and the athlete is ready to shoot. The biathlon rifle is a single loading .22 caliber target rifle with non-optical sights. The rifles are as lightweight as possible, but may not weigh less than 7.5lbs. Biathlon modifications on these rifles include lightweight stocks, carrying harnesses, quick release shooting slings, snow covers on the sights, five round magazines, magazine holders in the stock and bolt modifications to speed up the bolting action.

The metal competition targets are 50m away and can be re-set mechanically after each shooting bout. The target is set for either prone or standing and a hit is registered immediately by a white plate, which flips up to cover the black target. The prone target looks the same as the standing target, however a prone hit must strike 4.6mm (1.8 inch) diameter circle in the center of the target for the white plate to flip up. A standing shot can hit anywhere in the 11.5mm (4.5 inch) diameter circle to be a hit and for the white plate to come up. If all five targets are hit, all the white plates will come up, the competitor has shot "clean" and will not have to ski any penalty loops or have penalty minutes added to their ski time. The jury may give time allowances for mechanical malfunctions of the rifle, clip, or target.

Safety

Safety is a primary concern at all the biathlon competitions. Athletes must pass a rifle safety certification course before being allowed to compete in a biathlon event. Rifles are loaded at the range when they are pointing at the target and the athlete is ready to fire. Penalties for infractions of UIPMB biathlon competition and safety rules are imposed by the competition committee and confirmed by the jury.

 

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Quick Media Guide to Race Events

Class

Race

Length

Penalties for Each Shot

Shooting

Max Climb

Total Climb

Men

Individual
Sprint
Relay

20 K
10 K
4 X 7.5K

1 min/ miss added to time
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)

4 X 5 Shots
2 X 5 Shots
2 X 5-8 Shots

75 m

600-750m
300-450m
200-300m

Women

Individual
Sprint
Relay

15 K
7.5 K
4 X 7.5K

1 min/ miss added to time
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)

4 X 5 Shots
2 X 5 Shots
2 X 5-8 Shots

75 m

400-500m
200-300m
200-300m

Junior Men

Individual
Sprint
Relay

15 K
10 K
4 X 7.5K

1 min/ miss added to time
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)

4 X 5 Shots
2 X 5 Shots
2 X 5-8 Shots

75 m

400-500m
300-450m
200-300m

Junior Women

Individual
Sprint
Relay

10 K
7.5 K
4 X 7.5K

1 min/ miss added to time
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)
1 penalty loop/ miss (150m)

4 X 5 Shots
2 X 5 Shots
2 X 5-8 Shots

75 m

200-350m
200-300m
200-300m

*K= Kilometer
m= meter

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Arm Sling

 

Glossary of Common Biathlon Terms

Belt or webbing that hooks into an armband to stabilize the rifle and arms while firing. Used in prone shooting.

 

Clicks

 

 

 

Slight adjustments for wind and sun angle are made by moving the rear apertures in different directions. The amount of change is measured by clicks turned. The coach at the range may assist the athletes arriving to shoot by calling out sight corrections, such as: three clicks to the right.

 

Clip/Magazine

 

 

Used to hold five .22 caliber rifle cartridges. Up to four clips can be stored in the rifle stock while the biathlete is skiing the course. When at the range the clips are taken from the stock and inserted into the rifle as needed.

 

Declared Rounds

 

 

In relay events, 8 bullets are carried in each clip. Upon entering the range, the biathlete must deposit the extra three rounds in a cup at their shooting point before commencing to shoot. The five rounds from the clip are used to hit five targets, if more rounds are needed, the extra, declared rounds may then be hand loaded and used.

 

Harness

 

Backpack like shoulder straps used for carrying the rifle on the back.

 

Prone

 

 

A lying down shooting position used in biathlon. In an individual event the first and third shooting stations are shot in the prone position, as is the first shooting stage in a sprint event.

 

Penalty Loop

 

 

150m ski loop that must be skied when targets are missed during the sprint and relay events. One loop is skied for every target missed. 30 to 35 seconds is considered a fast loop time. No penalty loops are used in the individual events, instead a one-minute penalty is added for each miss.

 

Off Hand

 

Standing position used in the second and fourth shooting stations of the individual event and the second stage of the sprint competition.

 

Shoot Clean

 

Hitting all five targets during one shooting stage.

 

Skate

 

 

 

The technique used while skiing. Longer poles are used to drive them forward, gliding out onto the right leg and then back to the left leg. The skier is moving in a right to left direction as opposed to being propelled straight down the trail. No ski tracks are used as in the classical technique.

 

Snow Guard

 

Cap covering the rifle muzzle. It prevents snow from entering the barrel in case of a fall on the course. It is flipped up at the range when shooting.

 

Target

 

 

 

Metal target sizes are 11.5cm (4.5in) in diameter for standing targets and 4.5cm (silver dollar size) for prone targets. Shooting distance is 50m for all shooting stages. On a hit, the black target is covered by a white metal plate that flips up.

 

Zero

 

Time spent before the race shooting at paper targets to align the rifle sights. When zeroed, the rifle is accurate for the particular wind and light conditions on the range at that time.

 

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