What is biathlon?
Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Skiers need to be able to shoot from two positions: standing and prone (lying on their bellies). There are a number of different events:
Individual (20 km for men; 15 km for women)
Sprint (10 km for men; 7.5 km for women)
Pursuit (12.5 km for men; 10 km for women)
Mass start (15 km for men; 12.5 km for women)
Relay (4 x 7.5 km for men; 4 x 6 km for women; 2 x 6 km and 2 x 7.5 km for mixed event)
A kilometer is 0.62 miles, so a 20 km race is about 12.4 miles.
How is the winner determined?
The winners of individual, sprint and relay are determined by whoever has the shortest time. The winner of mass start and pursuit is whoever crosses the finish line first. For mass start, the skiers all start at the same time. For pursuit, each skier's start time is staggered based on how they finished in the sprint event.
What happens if a skier misses a target?
For individual, a minute is added to the skier's time for each missed shot. For the other events, the skier must complete a 150m penalty loop before continuing. The target for the prone shots is 2 inches wide and the target for the standing shots is 4.5 inches wide.
What's the sport's origin?
It dates back to Norwegian ski troops in the late 1700s. There is still a strong tie to the military today. It is not uncommon for biathletes to be current or former military members. In the United States, the Army National Guard sponsors biathlon competitions. The sport was part of the Olympics in 1924 and didn't make another return until 1960. Women's biathlon was added in 1992.
Is there some secret trick to slow down your heart rate when switching between skiing and shooting?
Not really, says Piotr Bednarski, director of athlete development for the U.S. Biathlon Association. "If you're in awesome shape, your heart rate drops really fast. If you're out of shape, there will be a lot of huffing and puffing when you stop," said Bednarski, who's based in the Twin Cities and is also the head coach for Loppet Nordic Racing. Also, racers may slow their pace just a bit as they approach the shooting range.
Is it hard to shoot with gloves on?
Some people go without gloves, Bednarski said, because wearing them means you lose a little sensation on the trigger, but most people wear them because if you're hands are numb that doesn't do you much good either. "The trick is to start the race off with really warm hands," Bednarski said, "Then they'll stay pretty warm through the race."
Leif Nordgren, 24, grew up in Marine on St. Croix and graduated from Forest Lake High School. This will be his first appearance in the Olympics. He's considered a rising star on Team USA.
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- Find more: Your guide to the 2014 Winter Olympics