Encyclopedia of Sport: Every sport from around the world
Topend Sports Logo

Biathlon - Skiing and Shooting

Biathlon is a winter Olympic sport, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.

Biathletes shootingBiathletes shooting at targets

A biathlon race consists of participants skiing around a cross-country trail system. The total distance is broken into two or four shooting rounds, half in a standing position and the other half in a prone position. Extra time is added to the participant's total running time depending on his or her shooting performance. In each shooting round, the participants must hit five targets.

If the participant misses a target, this should be "atoned for" in 3 ways: skiing around a 150-meter penalty loop, adding one minute to the skier's total time, or using an extra cartridge to finish the target. Split times are taken at several points on the course so that the participants' progress can be tracked. Biathlon is an official sport at the Winter Olympics.


Nordic field biathlon is similarly a combined sport of cross-country skiing and shooting, considered a close predecessor to Olympic biathlon. The main difference between Nordic field biathlon and Olympic biathlon is the use of fullbore rifles and paper targets placed in the terrain with time penalties added for misses. Another variant of biathlon is summer biathlon, which is a combination of roller skiing (or sometimes trail running) and rifle shooting. The discontinued Winter Olympic sport of Modern Pentathlon is considered a precursor of the sport of biathlon.

Similar Sports

Related Pages

send us a comment Any comments, suggestions, or corrections? Please let us know.

Sport Extra

Check out the 800+ sports in the Encyclopedia of Every Sport. Well not every sport, as there is a list of unusual sports, extinct sports and newly created sports. How to get on these lists? See What is a sport? We also have sports winners lists, and about major sports events and a summary of every year.

 → How to Cite