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2018 Winter Olympics: Biathlon Guide and Preview for PyeongChang

At least one biathlon gold will be up for grabs in almost every day of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Time to get familiar.

The arrival of the 2018 Winter Olympics means another opportunity for biathlon to make inroads with an American audience unaccustomed to seeing its national team succeed on a world stage. But with a handful of promising contenders among the 10-person U.S. biathlon team and 11 drama-filled competition days ahead, there’s no better time to get familiar.

The day after the opening ceremony, biathlon hands out one of the first gold medals of the Olympics when the Women’s 7.5 km Sprint gets underway at 6:15 a.m. ET at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre. Five more medals are up for grabs over the next five days, followed by the longest individual distance events over the middle weekend (the men’s and women’s Mass Start, on Feb. 17-18) and the three relay events during the second week. 

You can check out the complete biathlon schedule here.

Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, offering five different formats of race: the Sprint, Individual, Pursuit, Mass Start and Relay. In a somewhat unique feature among racing sports at the Olympics, how each athlete fares in the sprint and individual events determines how far behind he or she starts in the pursuit event.

In December, SI published a Rookie’s Guide to biathlon with information about the fundamentals of the sport and how each of the five formats works. In a broader sense, the events reward accuracy in shooting a series of targets 50 meters away and speed in completing the closed race course in between shooting sessions, which depending on the format can present laps as long as four kilometers. If you want a more sophisticated grasp of each of the 11 events and videos of how it looks at the sport’s highest level, you’ll want to dive in to the Rookie’s Guide.

A Rookie's Guide to Biathlon at the 2018 Winter Olympics

In the Jan. 29-Feb. 5 Olympic Preview issue of Sports Illustrated, our expert Brian Cazeneuve gave his medal predictions for every single event. Below are his picks for all 11 biathlon events:


10K sprint

● Gold: Johannes Thingnes Bø, Norway
● Silver: Martin Fourcade, France
● Bronze: Arnd Peiffer, Germany

Fourcade’s older brother, Simon, is a three-time Olympian.

12.5K pursuit

● Gold: Martin Fourcade, France
● Silver: Johannes Thingnes Bø, Norway
● Bronze: Anton Shipulin, Russia

Fourcade’s hometown, Ceret (pop. 7,700), is said to produce the world’s sweetest cherries.

15K mass start

● Gold: Johannes Thingnes Bø, Norway
● Silver: Martin Fourcade, France
● Bronze: Tarjei Bø, Norway

Tarjei, 29, is five years older than brother Johannes.

20K individual

● Gold: Johannes Thingnes Bø, Norway
● Silver: Martin Fourcade, France
● Bronze: Ondřej Moavec, Czech Republic

World champ Lowell Bailey of the U.S. has been struggling.

4 × 7.5K relay

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● Gold: Norway
● Silver: France
● Bronze: Germany

Career medal leader Ole Einar Bjørndalen didn’t make Norway’s team.


7.5K sprint

● Gold: Anastasiya Kuzmina, Slovakia
● Silver: Kaisa Mäkäräinen, Finland
● Bronze: Laura Dahlmeier, Germany

Kuzmina’s brother, Anton Shipulin, competes in biathlon for Russia.

10K pursuit

● Gold: Dorothea Wierer, Italy
● Silver: Anastasiya Kuzmina, Slovakia
● Bronze: Darya Domracheva, Belarus

Kuzmina’s husband, Daniel Kuzmin, competed for Israel in cross-country until 2011.

12.5K mass start

● Gold: Laura Dahlmeier, Germany
● Silver: Kaisa Mäkäräinen, Finland
● Bronze: Darya Domracheva, Belarus

Dahlmeier won five golds at worlds.

15K individual

● Gold: Kaisa Mäkäräinen, Finland
● Silver: Nadezhda Skardino, Belarus
● Bronze: Valj Semerenko, Ukraine

Mäkäräinen plans to teach physics.

4 × 6K relay

● Gold: Germany
● Silver: France
● Bronze: Ukraine

Eric Heiden’s niece, Joanne Reid, is on the U.S. team.

Mixed relay

● Gold: Germany
● Silver: France
● Bronze: Russia

Biathlon is the only winter sport in which the U.S. has never won a medal.

Check out Brian’s medal predictions for all 102 events in the magazine.