The biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It is treated as a race where the contestant with the shortest total time wins. Depending on the competition, missed shots result in extra distance or time being added to the contestant’s total.
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the biathlon “is rooted in the skiing traditions of Scandinavia, where early inhabitants revered the Norse god Ullr as both the ski god and the hunting god”. In modern times, the activity that developed into this sport was an exercise for Norwegian people that was an alternative training for the military. Norwegian skiing regiments organized military skiing contests in the 18th century, divided in four classes: shooting at mark while skiing at top speed, downhill race among trees, downhill race on big hills without falling, and a long race on flat ground while carrying rifle and military pack. In modern terminology these military contests included downhill, slalom, biathlon, and cross-country skiing. One of the world’s first known ski clubs, the Trysil Rifle and Ski Club, was formed in Norway in 1861 to promote national defense at the local level. 20th century variants include Forsvarsrennet (the military contest) – a 17 km cross-country race with shooting, and the military cross-country race at 30 km including marksmanship. The modern biathlon is a civilian variant of the old military combined exercise. In Norway, the biathlon was until 1984 a branch of Det frivillige Skyttervesen, an organization set up by the government to promote civilian marksmanship in support of national defense. In Norwegian, the biathlon is called skiskyting (literally ski shooting). In Norway there are still separate contests in skifeltskyting, a cross-country race at 12 km with large-caliber rifle shooting at various targets with unknown range.