"Skidskytte" is probably the most difficult Swedish world I`ve learned so far. Not only because its pronunciation is quite difficult but because I didn`t even know the Scandinavian people have a special world for my favorite sport while the rest of the world is calling it Biathlon. Directly translated "skidskytte" means ski-shooting what kind of explains this winter sport itself. It`s an Olympic discipline that gained more and more popularity in the last years but still is pretty unknown in many parts of the world. So let’s get ready for a nerdy report about Biathlon!
My friends would maybe say I`m a little obsessed with this sport, but for me it`s something I am proud of and I just love everything that comes with it. I think this fascination runs in my family although no one is as crazy about Biathlon as me. Since there used to be a big training point in my area, many people in my town have a history with biathlon. As long as I remember, my parents, grandparents, and actually almost everyone in my home village follows the Biathlon world cup races so it is almost a tradition. As I became older I informed myself more and more about not only the different athletes and their trainings but also about the technical parts such as ski-waxing, skating-technics, constructions of the skies and weapons, or the different race divisions. And with becoming more aware about all those parts that influence the sport, my fascination grew. Now, here I am, sharing my enthusiasm with everyone!
Since I do not expect that all of you know this winter sport I will start with some basics. Biathlon is basically a combination of cross-country-skiing and shooting. Depending on the discipline they either shoot two or four times. During every shooting they try to hit five targets and for every miss they have to ski one extra penalty lap, which takes extra seconds and so makes them fall behind in the race. Besides the shooting, before, after, and in between the athletes ski a specific amount of kilometers. Of course this part is also really important because if you are fast enough, you can maybe even compensate your mistakes at the shooting range.
But since it is an outdoor sport there are many factors that influence the race. First, the wind can make it hard to hit the targets, especially when the athletes react incorrectly to the changing conditions. Sometimes there is fog or heavy snowfall what makes it hard to see the targets at all. The snow can also have an impact on the condition of the track what influences then again the skiing part. In order to ski fast it is important that the athlete is in good shape and has the perfect skiing technique, which takes years of training to develop. On top of that the ski-waxing is an important factor as well.
In order to perfect all those parts, it is not only about the athlete, his training and his performance, but more than that about the whole team. As in every competitive sport you need coaches, physiotherapists, mental coaches, and more. As in many other winter sports, the ski-technicians have a really important role in Biathlon as well in order to choose and wax the perfect skis.
Because of that Biathlon is so unpredictable and extremely fun to watch, both on TV and in real life, even for people who do not support special athletes or do not even know that much about the sport. That was the case with my friends who joined me in Östersund but all of us still enjoyed this great experience. Besides feeling the energy of the crowd and the excitement of the race, we got to see the athletes in real life. That, for me, was definitely the highlight! Because, although Biathlon is one of the most unpredictable sports, there is a relatively stable group of world cup athletes that have leading positions in the world cup. Most of them have been part of the races for years now, what is why I know many of them. But still, I`m also always really excited when new people come in. I love to follow all of their careers, watch them improve and support not only the German team, but many athletes of all the different nations.
As I already mentioned, in the last years Biathlon became more and more attractive for many people to watch. With this growing popularity there where quite a few changes in the sport itself to make it even more fast, unpredictable, and exciting to watch. Before, there used to be 5 different disciplines: the long individual, sprint, pursuit, mass start, and relay. The original discipline was the individual that still is my favorite, because it is really long and just the classic. But since the athletes start one by one and only the time matters it is not so fun to watch for many people, especially those that don`t follow the sport that much. Because of that, the IBU (International Biathlon Union) reduced the amount of those races and focused more on the fast sprints and the other disciplines in which the athletes fight side by side. Also two new disciplines, mix relay and single mix relay, were introduced to the race calendar to bring in something new, and also give small nations a better chance to compete among the best. Having those different disciplines, the always changing race places with varying tracks, and the other already mentioned influences makes it impossible to know who will be among the best. That is, what makes Biathlon to what it is!
So, most of those new developments are great and I hope Biathlon becomes even more popular, because it really is such a special sport. For sure, I will follow it the next years as well and see what other changes will be made. Right now for example there are some discussions about different waxes and how the IBU can control the use of them or about different rules for summer biathlon. So you see, I could go on for hours because there are so many topics that come with it!
Congratulations to everyone who made it to here. I really hope you liked this report and maybe even start to have an interest in Biathlon. The world cup season started just a few weeks ago and it`s Olympic season – that means, perfect timing to start watching the races! For now, I hope everyone of you has an amazing day. I will write to you soon!