Type of Competition


The individual races have the longest tradition in biathlon. Shooting is more critical than in other competitions.

Race distance men: 20 km
Race distance women: 15 km
Penalty time: One minute per missed target is immediately added to the athletes time
Duration: about 55 minutes for the best athletes
Prone / standing / prone / standing


Inexperienced spectators may have a hard time telling which athlete is in the lead at any given moment because it is a race against time. This is also why the distances are longer than in other disciplines. There are four shooting bouts for all classes. 

  • A total of 5 segments of each 3 km (women) and 4 km (men) distance
  • There is a shooting bout between each segment

The sprint competition is most similar to the individual competition, it is however, significantly shorter. Speed is more significant than shooting accuracy, because a missed target is penalized with 150 additional meters (a penalty loop). It is only difficult to make up the missed seconds after three penalty loops.

  • A 150 m penalty loop can be completed in 21 to 26 seconds
  • Two shooting bouts for all classes (prone and standing)


Duration: About 26 Minutes
Women: three 2.5km rounds
Men: three rounds of 3.4 and 3 km or three times 3.3 km


The permission to compete as well as the starting order is usually determined by the results of the sprint race which takes place beforehand, but is sometimes also based on the individual competition. The spectators are engrossed in the race because they can always see exactly who is in the lead.  The psychological aspect of the athletes being in pursuit of each other plays a significant role.

  • 60 athletes compete in World Cup pursuit races
  • The winner of the qualifying race (either the sprint or the individual race) starts first
  • Four shooting bouts: prone – prone – standing – standing
  • Outstripped competitors must exit the race immediately
  • Whoever crosses the finish line first is the winner, provided that no time penalties or credits were awarded
Mass Start

This race is particularly thrilling because all competitors start simultaneously. Only 30 athletes can compete because a target must be available for each competitor at nearly the same time due to the mass start. 

  • Four shooting bouts: prone – prone – standing – standing
  • First shooting bout: athletes shoot according to their bib number
  • After the second shooting bout athletes shoot at the first available target from the right as they arrive at the range


The athletes with the top total ranking in the current World Cup can participate in the mass start.


The first relay team members all start at the same time. This makes the relay race exciting to watch because you can always see who is in the lead.

  • Four team members each race 7.5 km for men, and 6 km for women
  • Two shooting bouts per competitor (prone/standing)
  • After the third round, the athlete hands over to that team’s next competitor
  • The last team member crosses the finish line
  • The team that crosses the finish line first wins provided there were no time penalties

In a relay race, the athletes try to shoot as quickly as possible to immediately return to the track after they have hit all the targets.

  • Each competitor carries munition for three extra shots
  • Replacement munition must be loaded manually if targets are missed
  • Reloading is difficult and tedious under time pressure

The race regulations as well as ranking in the World Cup determine participation in the relay races, though in some races participation is determined by lottery. Thus during the World Cup races, the start numbers reflect the current ranking in the World Cup relay race.

  • The start number determines the starting lane and shooting range number
  • After the second shooting bout, the racers use the first available target from the right as they arrive in the shooting range
  • Relay team members have color-coded start numbers:
    • Racer 1: red
    • Racer 2: green
    • Racer 3: yellow
    • Racer 4: blue


Mixed Relay

A mixed relay group consists of two women and two men. For the mixed relay race, the start numbers are based on the total of the current national cup rankings (male and female ranks added up). Thereby the leading national team starts first, the second team starts second etc. Other than this, the same rules apply as for the relay race.  


  • Women: each 6 km with two shooting bouts at 2 and 4 km (prone/standing)
  • Men: each 7.5 km with two shooting bouts at 2.5 and 5 km (prone/standing)
  • Simultaneous start of the first starter of each relay team
  • Subsequent starts in the relay exchange zone
  • The arriving racer must touch the departing one
  • Start sequence: female – female – male – male