The Winter Olympics are two and a half weeks away in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The Olympic qualifier competitions for most sports have ended and the athletes are preparing to travel to South Korea to compete in the highest level of competition in the world. The Winter Olympics have less sports than the Summer Olympics, and most of them aren’t as well known to the public. One of the sports of this nature is the biathlon. The biathlon is a mixture of cross country skiing and marksmanship with a rifle.
A biathlon is is similar to a triathlon except, as one can probably tell by the name, there are only two events instead of three. The athletes cross country ski through a trail/course and stop two or three times to shoot at targets in different positions. Depending on how many shots it takes to hit the targets time is added to the athletes score. The person with the fastest total time wins the race. The two positions that the athletes shoot in are standing up and laying down on their stomach, which is called prone position.
The athletes have to hit five targets at each stop. If an athlete misses a target then they can choose between three different punishments to do that will add time to their total score. They can either have one minute automatically added to their time, ski a lap which is usually about 150m (it takes the best athletes about thirty seconds to do this), or they can shoot three extra times and at the end they have to complete a loop for every target they did not hit.
These two sports separately don’t seem to go together at all, they are two very different skills. One generally never needs a rifle whenever they go skiing, unless they are hunting. This sport reminds one of what people in the cold climates would have to do for food in a time before industrialization. These athletes have taken what used to be a necessary skill to survive in some parts of the world and have made a sport out of it. A Biathlon requires the athletes to be equally good at both skills. If one is great at skiing but a poor marksman they will have to ski much more for every shot they miss which would take much longer than if they had originally hit their target. Similarly, if an athlete is a great marksman and not as good at cross country skiing then they will get to all of the target areas late and this will negatively affect their time. This requires all of the athletes to be excellent at both seemingly unrelated skills.
Athletes who compete in the biathlon races at the Olympic level are outstanding in both sports and could probably medal in marksmanship and cross country skiing individually. But instead they compete together, which shows an extra ability and skill. The biathlon will be a sport to watch in the 2018 Winter Olympics that doesn’t get much attention at any other time or place.