World Cup Biathlon event at Nozawa Onsen (The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, Mar. 7, 1997)
Biathlon is an event which combines the movement of Cross-Country Skiing with the stillness of Rifle Shooting. The highlight of this sport is how competitors manage to overcome this combination of two totally different sports.
Competitors shoulder a rifle weighing 3.5 kg while they are skiing, and positions are decided by those skiing times. On the way to the finish line, competitors must clear targets 50 meters away that are located in specified shooting areas, and if the targets are missed the competitors face time and distance penalties.
There are three Olympic Biathlon events for men, the 20 km individual, 10 km sprint and relay (4 x 7.5 km). There are also three women's events; the 15 km individual, 7.5km sprint and relay (4 x 7.5 km).
In the individual race, competitors shoot four times in prone, standing, prone and standing positions. In the sprint race competitors shoot twice; first prone, then standing. In the relay, each of the four competitors shoots from both the prone and standing positions. The targets are only 4.5 cm in diameter for the prone position, and 11.5 cm for the standing position, and it is no easy task to shoot accurately without the time to catch one's breath after the exertion of skiing. Competitors only have five shots at the five targets, while they are allowed an additional three shots in the relay.
As penalties in the individual race, one minute is added to the competitor's time for each target missed, while in the sprint and relay events competitors have to ski once around the 150 m penalty loop for each target missed. In the second half of the course, when competitors have tired, it is easier to miss the target, which often results in great upsets in the placings.
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