- mass start competition
The mass start is a race affected by an extraordinary tension as all athletes start at once. The competitions structure may be compared with the individual race but is characterized by shorter tracks and bouts of shooting in the order of prone, prone, standing, standing.
Women are to complete 12,5 km while men have to pass 15 km. The simultaneous start of all biathletes demands a limit of 30 athletes per race to prevent unwanted congestion at the range. The first round of five targets will be hit on the lane corresponding to the bib. From the second bout on every participant takes the lane according to the position he arrives. Beginning on the right every range will be filled up by and by. A participation in mass start is based on the top scores of the current World Cup. In case of World Championships the start order depends on the win of the nine medals in individual, sprint and pursuit competitions. In addition, the standings of the respective World Cup influence starting places.
Furthermore, competitors who have been lapped during the race are advised to leave competition. The fact that the first across the finish line wins, similar to pursuit and relay, makes this discipline appear as one of the most exciting races.
- individual competition
The individual is the race that comes up with the longest tracks to complete. The distance is 20 km for men and 15 km for women. With the first shooting bout being prone followed by another prone and two standing stages there is a total of four shooting bouts. The lanes are divided into prone (lane 1 to 15) and standing (lane 16 to 30). Shooting at any lane the athlete obtains a fixed penalty time of one minute for each missed target added to the skiing time. Thus, clean shooting is even more important and leads to longer shooting times compared to sprint.
- relay / mixed relay competition
Similarly to other sports the relay in a World Cup Biathlon is related to the nations. Each team consists of four athletes. Within the last few years another relay competition, the mixed relay, has been established. Two women followed by two men go on the track and send the teams next leg participant back on track by touching him within a marked hand-over zone.
The first competitors start into their race in form of a mass start i.e. all athletes start at the same time. Afterwards the biathletes step up close together the climbs on their first leg which amounts for men 7.5 kilometers and for women 6 kilometers. The first shooting requires one characteristic in particular: keeping the nerves. But for every round of five targets there are three spares available. However each bullet can only be single loaded manually one at a time so that precious time gets lost. Though, what is even worse: The longer the biathlete resides at the range the more will drop the pulse and the more his knees start trembling. In technical language this is called “sewing machine”. If after eight bullets there are still misses the athlete will leave for the penalty loop what means 150 additional meters to overcome.
Every relay team member completes three legs and two shooting rounds, one prone and one standing. A typical saying indicates: “The relay has its own laws.” From time to time the responsibility for the team makes even experienced biathletes become desperate at the stage or lets youngsters outgrow. Not uncommonly, the last standing decides over victory and defeat of the competing teams. This keeps everyone in suspense until the very last minute so that it’s literally said: Only the nation crossing the finish line first!