Biathlon is a Winter Olympic event that involves two sports: cross-country skiing and shooting. Both sports are incorporated into one race, as competitors ski through a course while stopping at various checkpoints to shoot at targets. This action is performed using small rifles that are strapped to the back of each athlete when they are not in use. The 2018 Winter Olympics included 11 different biathlon events. Rules differ slightly based on the format of the event. For example, one format might require an athlete to complete an extra lap around the track for every target missed, while another penalizes the athlete by adding an extra minute to their overall time.

Table of Contents


What is biathlon?

Biathlons are challenging and physically demanding events that test each competitor's endurance and mental strength. The sport combines both cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, requiring skiers to stop at several checkpoints and knock down a series of targets either standing or lying down. Shooting the rifle with accuracy is crucial in order to winning the event, as athletes are assessed a penalty in the form of added time or distance for every target missed.

What Sports Are in a Biathlon?

A biathlon consists of two sports, one of which is skiing and the other is rifle shooting. Both sports are combined into one event, with athletes having to carry rifles on their backs when they are not actively shooting at targets.

How Far Are the Targets in Biathlon?

Targets are positioned exactly 50 meters away (54.7 yards) from the shooter.

How Long Is a Biathlon?

The time it takes to finish a biathlon tends to vary. However, athletes do need to complete several laps and shooting sessions throughout the contest. The best performers in the individual event tend to finish in approximately 50 minutes. Due to the high volume of competitors and extensive number of events, biathlons (i.e. Olympic slate) can take several hours from start to full completion.

How Does the Biathlon Work?

The biathlon requires athletes to race around a course with a rifle strapped to their backs, stopping at the conclusion of each lap to shoot at a series of targets. For every missed target, athletes are subject to a time or distance penalty (i.e. extra minute added to total finishing time, extra 0.15 km lap required).