What is the biathlon mixed relay?

The Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 will feature nine mixed events. One of them will be the biathlon mixed relay. But do you know what's involved? Find out everything you need to know about this competition, where Norway and reigning Olympic champions France will be the main favourites.

By Andrés Aragón
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

To increase gender equality at the Games, mixed events have become a core element of the Olympic programme. At Beijing 2022, there will be nine mixed events - four new ones and five that have already been featured at past Olympics.

One of the latter will be the biathlon mixed relay, which made its Olympic debut at Sochi 2014. Norway were the first-ever Olympic champions, but France took their crown at PyeongChang 2018.

On 5 February 2022, these two nations will be among the favorites to win gold. There will be around 20 teams involved, each of them comprised of four athletes – two women and two men. It will be the first biathlon event to take place at Beijing 2022, so let's have a look at what we can expect.

Biathlon mixed relay format

The biathlon mixed relay has been featured in international competitions since 2005 and made its debut at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, although it had also previously featured at the 2012 Youth Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck.

In this event there will be around 20 teams (the exact number will be known once the qualification period closes on 16 January 2022). Each team is comprised of four athletes, two women and two men, and each of them will ski for six km.

The event begins with a mass start featuring the first skier from each team. Each of them has two firing sequences –one prone and one in a standing position.

In each firing sequence, competitors are required to hit five targets and are allowed three extra bullets (for a total of eight). For each target left standing, athletes have to ski a lap around the 150m penalty loop.

When and where to follow the mixed relay at Beijing 2022

The National Biathlon Centre, located in Zhangjiakou City, in the north of People’s Republic of China's Hebei Province, will stage the 11 events of the Beijing 2022 biathlon competition.

The mixed relay will be the first of the 11 events on the biathlon schedule. It will take place on 5 February 2022, a day after the Opening Ceremony. The event will begin at 17:00 local time, and in little more than an hour we will know the new Olympic Champions.

What's new? Olympians explain

The biathlon mixed relay event added a new incentive for athletes. They feel like it is a victory for the whole team. And by the whole team, they mean everyone.

Here’s how French biathlete Emilien Jacquelin, the reigning double world champion in the pursuit event, described the competition in an interview with Olympics.com:

“As an athlete, I think for the whole staff – technicians, physiotherapists, coaches – everybody that follows us during the season, a mixed team relay victory means more than a women's or men's relay. In an event like this, nobody is left out.”

Jacquelin, part of the French Team at the 2021 biathlon World Championships, talks about the “great pride” athletes feel when selected for this event:

“I like the mixed team relay a lot because I think it shows the current level of a nation. When you are selected in a mixed relay, you feel a lot of pride. And we want to give our best, especially since we are all training together throughout the whole year. So if we can perform together, even better,” he added.

And what do they feel during the competition?

“It’s a little bit more emotional, because you fear for and hope for the other athletes when they are at the shooting range,” said Juliane Fruehwirt, silver medalist with Germany in the mixed relay and YOG gold medallist in the 6 km sprint at the Lillehammer 2016.

Who to look out for?

Norway will arrive in Beijing 2022 as the main favourites to claim the gold medal in the mixed relay event. The Scandinavians have won the last three World Championships, eight of the last nine World Cups (in 2014, the title was shared with the Czech Republic) and have reached the podium in the two Olympic competitions to date: they won gold at Sochi 2014 and silver at PyeongChang 2018.

Norway are also the reigning world champions in women’s and men’s relay, so they seem like a good bet. With stars like Tiril Eckhoff, the most decorated among the female biathletes (five medals, including one gold, one silver and three bronze), Sturla Holm Laegreid, winner of four golds at the 2021 World Championship, Marte Olsbu or the Boe brothers, just to name a few, they have plenty to choose from.

France are the reigning Olympic champions in the mixed relay and, although they saw legend Martin Fourcade retire from competition (in fact, Simon Desthieux may be the only athlete to return from the 2018 gold-winning team), they still have strong athletes in contention for the team.

Among the athletes who could earn a spot on the team, there is Quentin Fillon Maillet, part of the world championship-winning team in 2016; Anaïs Bescond, three-time Olympic medallist in 2018; Julia Simon, world champion in the single mixed relay in 2021; Émilien Jacquelin, double world champion in pursuit; and Anaïs Chevalier-Bouchet, who has returned to form after a long absence due to maternity.

But don’t forget Sweden, Olympic champions in 2018 and world silver medallists in 2021 in the men’s relay, and Olympic silver medallists (2018) in the women’s relay. They won bronze in the mixed relay event at the 2021 World Championship with Sebastian Samuelsson, Martin Ponsiluoma, Linn Persson and Hanna Öberg.

Italy, with the likes of Lukas Hofer or Dorothea Wierer, and Germany, could also find their way onto the podium.

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