- World Cup
- Cross-country centre
Skis and weapons have long been used together, and rock paintings that date from approximately 3000 BC depict hunters on skis. Eventually, northern nations established military ski patrols to guard isolated borders during the winter. The first biathlon competitions took place in the late 1700s. For about 150 years most participants had some military background, and not until after World War II (1939-1945) did the sport distance itself from military influences by cultivating athletes specifically trained for biathlon competition. The greatest advocate of the biathlon was Sven Thofelt of Sweden. He served as president of the UIPMB for 20 years, from 1968 to 1988. Thofelt helped standardize the sport’s rules and was its main advocate for inclusion as an Olympic medal sport.
The biathlon saw many changes during the 1970s, when penalty loops and the sprint event were introduced. Before the late 1970s, skiers were allowed to use several different types of rifles. But in 1978 the small, lightweight, .22 caliber rifle was chosen as the official rifle of competition. These changes made biathlon accessible to a greater number of athletes and placed more emphasis on each competitor’s skiing ability. The 1980s and 1990s saw an increased number of competitors, the addition of new events, and the inclusion of women in biathlon.