One of the new offerings at Steel City Blitz this offseason is coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The 23rd Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, beginning on Friday, February 9th. Over the week before the Games kick off, we will be previewing each of the 15 events that will comprise the Olympics. For many people, they only pay attention to some of these events once every four years, so consider this a quick refresher on how they work and who to watch for as the Olympics take over the sporting world for a fortnight in February.
You can check out all of our Winter Olympics event previews here.
Today’s preview covers Biathlon, a combination event of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
Sprint: Men’s 10km, Women’s 7.5km
Pursuit: Men’s 12.5km, Women’s 10km
Individual: Men’s 20km, Women’s 15km
Mass Start: Men’s 15km, Women’s 12.5km
Relay: Men’s 4 x 7.5km, Women’s 4 x 6km, Mixed 4 x 6km/7.5km
February 10: Women’s 7.5km sprint
February 11: Men’s 10km sprint
February 12: Women’s 10km pursuit and Men’s 12.5km pursuit
February 14: Women’s 15km individual
February 15: Men’s 20km individual
February 17: Women’s 12.5km mass start
February 18: Men’s 15km mass start
February 20: Mixed 2 x 6km / 2 x 7.5km relay
February 22: Women’s 4 x 6km relay
February 23: Men’s 4 x 7.5km relay
The “Norwegian driveby” combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Think that sounds easy? You’re wrong. Depending on the shooting position (standing or “prone” which is laying on your stomach), athletes get 5 shots to hit 5 metal targets 50 meters away. From the prone position, the target is about the size of a golf ball and from the standing position it is about the size of a grapefruit. Basically, 50 meters is the size of an Olympic swimming pool which means athletes have to shoot a target the size of a golf ball from a swimming pool’s length away. Penalties for each miss can either be a minute of added time of haivng to ski a 150-meter penalty loop. There are 11 different events from individual (20km for men, 15km for women with 4 shooting segments) and sprint (10km for men, 7.5km for women with 3 shooting stops). The sprint is basically a shorter version of the individual race but it also serves as the qualifier for the Pursuit (12.5km for men, 10km for women) which pits the top 60 finishers from Sprint. In Pursuit, the starting times are staggered by the order of finish in the Sprint based on the margin of time separating the finishers. The Mass Start event is basically total chaos between the top 30. The Relay event is a typical 4-person relay race that involves skiing and shooting. Sochi 2014 held the first ever mixed relay involving teams of men and women. 25 different nations qualified for the Biathlon event.
Germany and Norway had traditionally dominated Biathlon. Germany has won 45 medals (16 golds) alone and if you add in the totals from East and West Germany that number rises to 61 total medals and 20 golds. Norway has won 35 medals and 15 golds. Russia and the Soviet Union rank next in the all-time medal table, but the Russians had athletes disqualified in Sochi 2014 for doping and their entire delegation is not allowed to compete under the Russian flag this year. Germany leads the Nations Cup standings in points in both the men’s and women’s standings, followed by France in both respects. France’s Martin Fourcade was one of the stars of the Sochi 2014 games, winning Gold in the Individual and Pursuit disciplines and Silver in the Mass Start. Fourcade has won the Overall World Championship a record six consecutive years from 2012 to 2017. On the women’s side, Belarus’ Darya Domracheva won 3 golds in Sochi in the Individual, Pursuit, and Mass Start events. Finland has not won a biathlon medal since 1998 but Kaisa Makarainen currently leads the women’s World Cup standings.
The United States has never won a medal in biathlon. Currently, the men’s team ranks 10th in the world and the women’s team ranks 14th. Lowell Bailey finished 8th in the men’s 20km race in Sochi 2014, the highest ever finish in Biathlon by an American. Tim Burke is the highest ranked male biathlete (26th in the world) and Susan Dunklee is the highest-ranked female biathlete (36th in the world).