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Biathlon is any sporting event made up of two disciplines. However, biathlon usually refers specifically to the winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Other popular variants include summer biathlon, which combines cross-country running with rifle, and biathle (also known as "modern biathlon"), which combines running with swimming.
This sport has its origins in an exercise for Norwegiansoldiers, as an alternative training for the military. 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.
Called military patrol, the combination of skiing and shooting was contested at the Olympic Winter Games in 1924, and then demonstrated in 1928, 1936, and 1948, but did not regain Olympic recognition then, as the small number of competing countries disagreed on the rules. During the mid-1950s, however, biathlon was introduced into the Soviet and Swedish winter sport circuits and was widely enjoyed by the public. This newfound popularity aided the effort of having biathlon gain entry into the Winter Olympics.
The first World Championship in biathlon was held in 1958 in Austria, and in 1960 the sport was finally included in the Olympic Games. At Albertville in 1992, women were first allowed in Olympic biathlon.
The competitions from 1958 to 1965 used high-power centerfire such as .30-06 Springfield and 7.62x51mm NATO, and so on, before the .22 Long Riflerimfire cartridge was standardized in 1978. The ammunition was carried in a belt worn around the competitor's waist. The sole event was the men's 20 km individual, encompassing four separate ranges and firing distances of 100 m, 150 m, 200 m, and 250 m. The target distance was reduced to 150 m with the addition of the relay in 1966. The shooting range was further reduced to 50 m in 1978 with the mechanical targets making their debut at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
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