Beijing 2022 - Biathlon

Susan Dunklee competes during the Women 7.5 km Sprint at the BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon Hochfilzen on Dec. 11, 2020 in Hochfilzen, Austria. (Photo by Getty Images)

The sport we know today as biathlon debuted as “military patrol” back at the inaugural Olympic Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, and it’s easy to see where the name came from. The combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting is just the sort of skillset that would come in handy for any military in a snowy, mountainous region. Biathlon emerged as the modern interpretation of the sport and has been a medal event on the Olympic program at each Games since 1960.

Biathlon presents a unique challenge to competitors. Cross-country skiing is among the most physically demanding of sports, a challenge all its own, but athletes must manage to slow their heart rate from 180 beats per minute or more in order to stay steady on the shooting range. And every miss just means more skiing. For every missed target, athletes must complete a penalty loop, which could mean the difference between winning and losing.

While the Nordic countries dominate in cross-country skiing, it’s Germany that leads the all-time medal table in biathlon. The Germans have won 19 gold medals and 52 medals overall. Absent from the medal table is Team USA, still seeking its first biathlon medal at the Games. An octet of experienced athletes hopes to change that. Five athletes on the eight-person team for Beijing are making their return to the Games.

The Olympic program includes five events for both men and women of varying distances. There’s also a mixed relay event that was added to the program in 2014. That makes a total of 11 medal events for the third Games in a row.

Biathlon will take place at the aptly-named National Biathlon Center located in the Zhangjiakou mountain cluster of venues northwest of Beijing.

Updated on January 28, 2022. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.