General description of a biathlon competition
- In a Biathlon competition, the biathlete skis distances varying from 6 to 20 km and stops at the shooting range to shoot two or four times, with both the ski distance and number of shooting bouts depending on the type of competition in question.
- The shooting distance is always 50 m. Five rounds are fired in each bout at five targets, except in the Relay competition in which the competitor has three spare rounds for each bout. There are two shooting positions, prone and standing, which are done alternating or in a series, depending on the competition.
- Target diameters are very small and depend on the shooting position. For standing it is 115 mm in diameter and even smaller for prone at 45 mm. During the entire competition the clock is running. Therefore the competitors do not just have to shoot well but also fast.
- Penalties for missed targets are imposed either as one minute of added time per missed target for the Individual competition or as a 150 m penalty loop - done immediately after each bout of shooting - for all other competitions.
- In essence, the athlete starts at the start line, skis one course loop (length depending on the competition), comes to the range and shoots, skis another loop, shoots, and so on, and then finishes with a ski loop to the finish line after the last bout of shooting.
- For the Individual and Sprint competitions, starts are done with one competitor at a time at a 30 second interval. In a Pursuit competition, starts are based on time intervals from the qualifying competition, and for the Mass Start, all competitors start together simultaneously.
- In the Relay competition, the first members of all teams start simultaneously and after completing their part, tag the next member in the Hand-over Zone to start them on their way.
- In principle, throughout the competition, the biathletes are responsible for their own actions, such as selecting a shooting lane (assigned in the Relay and Mass Start first shooting by start numbers), and for counting the number of missed targets and then skiing the correct number of penalty loops. However, they must always follow the stipulations of the Event and Competition Rules.
- Mixed Relays are also held. In these, female biathletes have to complete the first and the second leg of the relay respectively, while the third and fourth relay leg are each completed by a male biathlete. In other respects, the procedure for the Mixed Relay competition is as in the above description.