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OTHER ITA SITES:
A Biathlon Primer
Technically, a biathlon is any athletic event that is made up of two distinct legs of individual activity. This can mean a combination of biking and swimming, skiing and archery, or any other two sports that are practiced by an individual rather than a team. Although the sky is the limit as to what kind of sports can fall under the heading of a biathlon leg, there are a few standard combinations of sports that are usually part of a biathlon. Biathlons traditionally take place either in the summer season or during the winter. A summer biathlon often consists of running and shooting.
The most common form of biathlon takes place during the winter and is made up of a combination of cross country skiing and rifle work. The biathlon as we know it is an offshoot of a training regimen used in the Norwegian army to prepare soldiers for battle. This sheds some light on why riflery is such an important part of the sport, and why a great multi-seasonal biathlete needs to be equipped to cover different kinds of terrain.
The purely physical challenges of a classic winter biathlon are quite formidable. Cross country skiing requires grace, balance, and tremendous power. Becoming a serious competitor for this portion of the winter biathlon event requires intense lower body training over many months of preparation. To be able to glide across the snow with the speed necessary to win this portion of a biathlon requires the elegance of a cat together with the strength of a bull. Neither of these qualities can be achieved without a lot of hard work, dedication, and talent.
As a counterpoint to this event, riflery presents quite a challenge as it demands another set of skills entirely. The art of accurate rife work is a very delicate one, and the matter of winning or losing this portion of the biathlon often comes down to a mere few centimeters difference between the aim of one shooter and the aim of another. This kind of shooting requires incredible precision and mental concentration. Many biathlon fans feel that successfully achieving excellence in both skiing and shooting is the mark of a truly accomplished sportsman.
The variety of challenges these two events present is a wide one indeed as they require completely different sets of skills, utilize a full range of muscle groups, and demand that an athlete be able to show discipline and talent while covering ground and while remaining fairly stationary. To be able to take first place in a traditional biathlon, one must be very well-rounded in both body and mind as the events require intense physical exertion and precise focus and concentration.
Although today’s most accomplished biathletes may not ever find the kind of fame and fortune that the stars of higher profile sports enjoy, many dedicated biathlon fans consider these men and women to be the greatest living athletes.
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