The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia have come to an end with the closing ceremonies airing this past Sunday night. Overall the Olympics amaze me; the incredible strength and ability of the athletes, and their stamina and persistence is incredible. This year was the first time I have watched a good portion of the winter sporting events, I was most intrigued by the biathlon. For those who may not be familiar with the sport by it’s official name, it is the relay cross-country skiing and rifling event.
Due to the unique nature of what I was hesitant to call a sport, many questions flooded my mind.
According to the history found on usbiathlon.org, the sport has a history as a form of military in countries like Scandinavia, Norway and Finland. Biathlon was used for “national protection” and was essentially military patrol from the 1700s on. The history of this Olympic sport fascinates me.
It was in the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, that the first biathlon international competition occurred.
The rules of the game, obtained from NBC.com, state that at the 2014 Olympic games, there are 11 events in total: five men’s events (four individual and one relay), five woman’s events (four individual and one relay) and one mixed relay. In the example provided, (the men’s individual 20 km. race), the team member cross-country skis five laps around a four km. circuit. The athletes stop through the race four times at the shooting range and attempt to shoot five targets each time (20 targets total). The rifle, which they carry on themselves like a backpack, is a 22 caliber rifle that weighs more than seven pounds.
In the firing range, the competitors alternative between prone (laying) and standing positions, shooting at five targets, five yards away. (The distance of the shot differs on the shooting conditions.) The first and third shot is prone, and the target is slightly larger than a golf ball.
The second and fourth shot is standing, and the targets are slightly larger than a softball.
When a shot is made, a black target is covered by a white plate. There is also a one minute penalty for each miss of the target.
It must present quite a challenge for the athletes to calm their breath and focus to hit the targets after they have increased their heart rate on the skis.
While I watched the most skilled athletes in the world in the biathlon event, I wondered how were these athletes introduced to this very unique sporting event?
Martin Fourcade, 25, a member on the French biathlon team, tried numerous sports “including ice hockey, judo, swimming, athletics and mountain biking, before taking up Nordic skiing and then biathlon after his brother, Simon, started.
“I wanted to be like my older brother,” he said, as stated on sochi2014.com.
The official results of the relays In the Men’s Relay, Russia took home the Gold, Germany took home the Silver and Austria took home the Bronze medals. For the Women’s Relay, Ukraine won the Gold medal, Russian took the Silver and Norway won the Bronze.
Overall, Russia dominated with 13 Gold medals, 33 medals in total; Norway won 11 Gold medals, 26 total; Canada won 10 Gold medals, 25 overall; United States placed fourth, winning nine Gold medals, 28 overall. I hope to make it to either the summer or winter Olympics games at some point throughout my life, to be able to root for Team U.S.A.
The 2016 Summer Olympics will be hosted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from Aug. 5 to 21. Olé!