Biathlon combines the physical test of cross-country skiing with the psychological demands of rifle marksmanship.
With its origins dating back to hunting and military campaigns in snow covered regions, biathlon is now a popular worldwide Olympic sport. Until 1978, biathletes shot a centerfire cartridge like the .30-06 Springfield at distances of 100-250 meters. The first modern biathlon debuted at the Olympics in Lake Placid in 1980, with biathletes shooting a rimfire .22 cartridge at 50 meters. In the prone (lying down) position, the size of the scoring target is 1.8" (45mm), and in the offhand (standing up) position, the size of the target is 4.5" (115mm). In both positions, the target presents to the eye as 4.5" across, and changes from black to white when the athlete scores a hit.
Biathletes today generally utilize the "skating" or "free" technique of Nordic skiing, with different distances covered in different race formats.
Generally in a race, the biathletes ski a lap before coming in to shoot at the five black targets showing at their shooting point. A "hit" changes the target to white, while a "miss" shot stays black. The skier must ski a penalty loop for each missed target before completing another lap. Athletes shoot either two or four times during a race, but always end by skiing a lap to the finish.
Biathlon is today the most televised winter sport in countries like Germany, Austria and Russia. (insert pic from Wiki of "Olympic gold medalists Olga Zaitseva and Andrea Henkel at the World Cup pursuit race in Oberhof, 2013")
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