Pyeongchang 2018

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Mixing it up and keeping things in the family – five reasons to follow biathlon in PyeongChang

HOCHFILZEN, AUSTRIA - FEBRUARY 12: Darya Domracheva of Belarus wins the silver medal during the IBU Biathlon World Championships Men's and Women's Pursuit on February 12, 2017 in Hochfilzen, Austria. (Photo by Stanko Gruden/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

A novel test of both stamina and stability as competitors ski and shoot, biathlon has enjoyed a rich history in the Olympic Winter Games…

 

Military manoeuvres

Biathlon has its roots in the Scandinavian military. It originates from the Greek word for two contests but is believed to have begun as an exercise for Norwegian soldiers with the first competition in 1767 between border patrol companies. It had a role at the first Winter Games in France in 1924 but because of an initial lack of nations competing in the event it did not make its entry officially into the Olympic programme until 1960. Women competed at Olympic level from 1992.

Mixing things up

The relay events are one of the great spectacles in biathlon and, from Sochi 2014, there was the added twist with the introduction of the mixed relay for the first time, where teams of four from each nation – two men and two women – compete. Norway took the gold by 32.6 seconds ahead of the Czech Republic with the Italian quartet rounding off the podium in third place.

 

The sweatiest sport

It’s hard work. Athletes are cross-country skiing at pace and over distances as well as shooting in prone and standing positions and the discipline can lay claim to be the hardest Olympic sport in one regard. A study at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002 found it to be the sweatiest: in the 20-kilometre event the men produced on average 2.3 litres of sweat, the woman 1.4 litres over 15km.

Farewell to the king

PyeongChang could well be the last chance to see the most decorated Winter Olympian in the history of the Games, Ole Einar Bjørndalen. The Norwegian has won eight gold medals, four silvers and a solitary bronze, in his illustrious career to date and he is still picking up medals at the age of 43, recently winning a team bronze at the 2017 World Championships. An athlete known as the King of Biathlon may be past the peak of his powers but he could well add to that incredible medal tally in PyeongChang.

Family affair

Bjørndalen’s daughter Xenia could increase the family medal collection in the years to come. She certainly has the genes to do so from both sides of the family. Bjørndalen’s wife is Belarus biathlete Darya Domracheva. A bronze medallist at Vancouver 2010, she cleaned the board in her individual events in Sochi with triple gold and, a little over a year after becoming a mother for the first time, she is going for another title.

A post shared by Darya Domracheva (@dadofun) on

 

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