Olympic biathlon at Beijing 2022: Top five things to know

Discover everything you need to know about the biathlon competition at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, including the top athletes to watch, venue information, schedule and more!

By Will Imbo

Biathlon made its debut at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California, and has been part of the Olympic programme ever since, with new events added to the competition over the years.

There are 33 medals available in biathlon, with 11 events in total - five each for men and women, plus one mixed team event.

Take a look at our preview for biathlon at Beijing 2022, including the history of the sport, the top skiers to watch, venue information, and more.

Top Olympic biathletes at Beijing 2022

Norwegian biathlete Tiril Eckhoff has the most Olympic medals in biathlon among active female athletes with five (one gold, one silver, three bronze), and will be a strong favourite to add to that tally as she aims to compete at her third Winter Olympics in Beijing. She dominated the 2021 World Championships, winning four events and finishing with six total medals - two more than the next best competitor.

Other names to look out for in the women's disciplines include 2018 individual gold medalist Hanna Öberg (SWE) (silver in the 2021 World Championships) and 2018 sprint silver medalist Marte Olsbu Røiseland (NOR). With several Olympic champions retiring from the sport (including PyeongChang double gold medalist Laura Dahlmeier (GER)), the women's field appears to be fairly open for Beijing.

Eckhoff was also part of the Norwegian relay team that won gold at the 2021 Worlds, and even though the last three Games have seen three different winners in the event (Russia in 2010, Ukraine in 2014, and Belarus in 2018) - the Norwegian squad comes in as early favourites.

On the men's side, Beijing hopefuls are likely breathing a sigh of relief with the knowledge that Martin Fourcade (FRA) won't be competing. The PyeongChang triple gold-medalist (and five-time Olympic champion) announced his retirement from the sport in 2020.

However, Arnd Peiffer (GER) and Johannes Thingnes Bø (NOR) - winners of the sprint and individual events in 2018 respectively - will surely be looking to defend their crowns in Beijing. Bø won the bronze in 12.5km pursuit at the 2021 World Championships, while Peiffer secure silver in the 20km individual. That event was won by Norwegian Sturla Holm Lægreid, who also picked up golds in the mass start, relay, and mixed relay. He is yet to compete at an Olympic Games, but based on his performance at the World Championships, there's a good chance he could star in Beijing.

The men's relay in Beijing could come down to the battle between Sweden, the 2018 Winter Olympic champions, and Norway, the 2021 World Champions. Norway finished second in 2018, while Sweden were runners up in 2021. What will be in store for round three in 2022?

Olympic biathlon schedule at Beijing 2022

The biathlon competition will take place from 5 February - 19 February 2022.

Olympic biathlon venue at Beijing 2022

All biathlon events will take place at the National Biathlon Center in the Zhangjiakou competition zone. It's one of three new venues constructed in the Guyangshu Cluster, and has a capacity for 6000 spectators.

Olympic biathlon competition format at Beijing 2022

The biathlon competition at the Winter Olympics features 11 events:

Men

10 km Sprint

20 km Individual

12.5 km Pursuit

15 km Mass Start

4 x 7.5 km Relay

Women

7.5 km Sprint

15 km Individual

10 km Pursuit

12.5 km Mass Start

4 x 6 km Relay

Mixed

2 x 6 km W + 2 x 7.5 km M Mixed Relay

A maximum of 210 quota spots are available to athletes to compete in biathlon at the games. A maximum 105 men and 105 women may qualify.

Each biathlon event is treated as a race, with athletes skiing through a trail whose distance is divided into shooting rounds. Depending on the event, missed shots result in additional time or distance being added to the athlete's total.

Olympic biathlon history

The word "biathlon" comes from the Greek word for "two tests", and is today seen as the joining of two sports; skiing and shooting.

Biathlon has its roots in the snow-covered forests of Scandinavia, where people would hunt on skis with rifles slung over their shoulders. In the 18th century, Norwegian skiing regiments began organising military skiing contests, which served as a precursor to the biathlon in modern times.

Prior to the biathlon debut at the 1960 Winter Olympics, an antiquated form of the sport was featured at the 1924, 1928, 1936, and 1948 Winter Olympics: the military patrol. The event consisted of athletes competing in cross-country skiing, ski mountaineering and rifle shooting. Medals were awarded for the event in 1924, but it was a demonstration event for the other three Winter Games.

At the 1960 Squaw Valley Games, biathlon made its debut with the men's 20 km individual event. Women’s biathlon made its first appearance on the Olympic programme in Albertville in 1992. Over the years, new events have been added to the biathlon competition at the Games. The most recent addition is the mixed relay, which was introduced at Sochi 2014.

Germany and Norway have dominated the biathlon competition at the Winter Olympics, collecting 52 (19 golds) and 41 (16 golds) respectively.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen (NOR) is not only the most successful biathlete in Winter Olympic history - he is the most successful male athlete in Winter Olympic history - period. With 13 medals, the 'King of Biathlon' is one of three Winter Olympians (and only biathlete) to win eight gold medals.

Five-time Olympian Ursula "Uschi" Disl (GER) tops the women's rankings, with nine medals.