Johannes Thingnes Boe bei den BMW IBU Weltmeisterschaften Biathlon Oberhof 2023

The biathlon disciplines in overview

Whether relay, pursuit or mass start - each of the biathlon disciplines has its own special features.

As a non-expert, one can easily get confused. This overview provides you with a short summary of the most important information about all disciplines. With the knowledge about distances, shooting, the different penalty times and the course plan you are perfectly equipped for the BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon in Oberhof.

Ready, set, go!

Photo of the Sprint discipline


Distance men: 10 km (3 laps á 3.3 km)

Distance women: 7.5km (3 laps á 2.5 km)

Shooting: 2 / prone - standing

Length of penalty loop: 150m

Duration: approx. 1h 20m (per athlete approx. 25m)

Special feature: shortest race in the biathlon

The sprint is a shortened individual race with a total of three rounds. Shooting takes place after round 1 (prone) and round 2 (standing). In contrast to the individual race, athletes with a good running performance have an advantage here.

Photo of the discipline Pursuit


Distance men: 12.5 km (5 laps á 2.5 km)

Distance women: 10 km (5 laps á 2 km)

Shooting: 4 / prone - prone - standing - standing

Length of penalty loop: 150 m

Duration: women - approx. 45m / men - approx. 45m

Special feature: Athletes do not compete against time but against each other.

In the pursuit the 60 best biathletes of the sprint start. The starting order and intervals are based on the times of the sprint race. In contrast to the individual race, the athletes do not shoot alternately, but twice lying down and twice standing up. The winner is the athlete who crosses the finish line first.

Photo of the discipline Relay


Distance men: 7.5 km per athlete (3 laps á 2.5 km)

Distance women: 6 km per athlete (3 laps á 2 km)

Shooting laps: 2 per athlete / prone - standing

Length of penalty loop: 150m

Team composition: 4 men or 4 women

Duration: approx. 1h 30m

Special feature: The hit rates at the shooting range are usually worse. 

In the relay, four male and four female athletes from the same nation and of the same sex start individually one after the other. Each member of the relay team completes 3 laps with two shooting rounds and then hands over to the next member of the team. The changeover between the runners takes place in a 30 m long changeover zone, whereby a body contact must be clearly recognisable. In the event of a miss, the athletes have three reloads at their disposal - if these are not sufficient, then a penalty round must be completed.

Photo of the discipline Individual


Distance men: 20 km (5 laps á 4 km)

Distance women: 15 km (5 laps á 3 km)

Shooting: 4 / prone - standing - prone - standing

Penalty time: One minute per miss

Special feature: Priority is given to shooting - there is no penalty lap for misses.

The individual race is the oldest and longest competition in the biathlon. The athletes start every 30 seconds and run a total of five laps. With the exception of the final lap, shooting takes place after each completed lap, whereby the total of four shooting units are divided into two prone and two standing shooting units.

Photo of the discipline Mass start

Mass start

Distance men: 15 km (5 laps á 3 km)

Distance women: 12.5 km (5 laps á 2.5 km)

Shooting positions: 4 / prone - prone - standing - standing

Length of penalty loop: 150m

Special feature: Athletes start at the same time

In the mass start the number of athletes is limited to 30. Eligible for the mass start are the 25 best athletes of the World Cup and the 5 best points of the respective World Cup weekend. Participation is based on the top results in the overall ranking of the current World Cup. Due to the simultaneous start of all competitors, the spectators are offered the ultimate excitement.

Photo of the discipline Mixed relay

Mixed relay

Distance: 6 km per athlete (3 rounds á 2 km)

Shooting: 2 per athlete / prone - standing

Length of penalty loop: 150 m

Team composition: 2 men and 2 women

Special feature: combination of men's and women's races

The mixed relay is a special type of relay. The first runners of each relay start together. After three laps, the next member of the relay team takes over (in the order: woman - woman - man - man). If the mixed relay starts with the women, all four members run 6 km - if the men start, then all run 7.5 km, including the women.

Photo of the discipline Single mixed relay

Single mixed relay

Distance: 13.5 km (9 laps á 1.5km) for the relay team

Shooting: 4 per athlete / prone - standing - prone - standing

Length of penalty loop: 75 m

Team composition: one woman and one man

Special feature: youngest discipline of the biathlon

This is a shortened version of the mixed relay, the attraction of which is fast shooting and short laps. A team consists of one woman and one man who run in alternation. The teams take turns twice, with two shooting units to be completed per change. There are three reloads per shooting session - if a target is still missed, a shortened penalty loop (75 metres) has to be run.