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Biathlon Race Format (Traditional)

The following information was excerpted from Allen’s Biathlon Page and the USBA ¬†Competition Guide. The Competition guide explains the US Biathlon organization and it’s programs, the competitions and the selection criteria for the National Teams, Biographies of current athletes, past winners, and some of the more important rules. It is distributed to members of the USBA. To join, contact the¬†USBA

Winter Biathlon Formats

There are currently five Winter Biathlon competition formats that you will come across in USBA races. They are, along with the order of the race stages:

  • Individual (Ind) – ski / prone shoot / ski / standingshoot / ski / prone shoot / ski / standingshoot / ski
  • Sprint (Spr) – ski/prone shoot/ski/standingshoot/ski
  • Relay (Rel) – ski/prone shoot/ski/standingshoot/ski (for each of four biathletes)
  • Team (Tea) – ski/prone shoot/ski/standingshoot/ski (for cohesive group of four biathletes)
  • Pursuit (Pur) – ski/prone shoot/ski/prone shoot/ski/standingshoot/ski/standingshoot/ski

A summary of the distances to be skied, and some other details, according to competitor class, is listed in the Table at the bottom of this page.

For all formats, biathletes must use bolt action .22 rifles with non-optical sights, which they must carry with them while skiing. Except for the relay format, the biathlete is allowed only five rounds to hit the five targets at each shooting station. The course is laid out so all of the shooting takes place at a central location. The targets themselves are rows of black metal flaps that are 4.5 cm in diameter for the prone shots, and 11.5 cm in diameter for standing shots. Hitting a flap knocks it down, and causes a white cover to flip up, indicating a hit.

There are rules which govern the maximum elevation change for a given climb (75m), the total climb over the course (varies with format), maximum elevation above sea level, and minimum air temperature that must be met at race start. These vary according to the class.

In addition to the above race formats, which are used in National and International events, local clubs often run races or time trials which are geared toward beginning biathletes and local terrain- e.g. shorter distances and/or closer targets, as well as an option to ski without a rifle. Many clubs also offer air rifles for beginner or junior biathletes.

Summer Biathlon Formats

In Summer Biathlon, skiing is replaced by running. Biathletes still use bolt action .22 rifles with non-optical sights,but the rifles are left in the range rather than carried. There are two formats currently in common use for summer biathlon – Sport and Match.

The “Sport” class is designed for novice racers. The distance run is typically between 5 and 6 km, and the targets used are either the old summer biathlon targets (which are roughly 3.5″ in diameter), or the winter biathlon targets, set for standing shooting (11.5 cm in diameter), for both prone and standing shooting. The summer targets are set at 25m; the winter are typically used at 50m. You start off by running a loop, taking five shots prone, running a second loop and then taking five shots standing, and then running a final loop. You will usually have to do a penalty loop of between 50 to 100 m. for every shot missed.

The “Match” class is set up for serious competitors. The distance run is usually set between 7 and 8 km, and winter targets and distances are used – e.g. five 4.5 cm disks for prone, and five 11.5 cm disks for standing, at a distance of 50m.

Winter Biathlon Race Format Summary:

Class

Total Course Length

Penalty/missed shot

Shooting stations

Comments

Men – Ind

20k

1 minute

4

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Men – Spr

10k

150m loop

2

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Men – Rel

4×7.5k

150m loop

2

Mass start for first skier; must load up to 3 manual rounds for missed targets

Men – Pur

12.5k

150m loop

4

Start det. by previous sprint race

Women – Ind

15k

1 minute

4

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Women – Spr

7.5k

150m loop

2

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Women – Rel

4×7.5k

150m loop

2

Mass start for first skier; must load up to 3 manual rounds for missed targets

Women – Pur

10k

150m loop

4

Start det. by previous sprint race

Junior Men – Ind

15k

1 minute

4

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Junior Men – Spr

10k

150m loop

2

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Junior Men – Rel

4×7.5k

150m loop

2

Mass start for first skier; must load up to 3 manual rounds for missed targets

Junior Men – Pur

12.5k

150m loop

4

Start det. by previous sprint race

Junior Women – Ind

15k

1 minute

4

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Junior Women – Spr

7.5k

150m loop

2

Starts are at 30 sec or 1 min. intervals

Junior Women – Rel

4×7.5k

150m loop

2

Mass start for first skier; must load up to 3 manual rounds for missed targets

Junior Women – Pur

10k

150m loop

4

Start det. by previous sprint race

 


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