Biathlon demands an athlete to alternate the skills of physical endurance and shooting accuracy during a competition. Biathlon athletes with a disability are classified as standing, sitting, or skiers with a visual impairment. The sport combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, but differs from Olympic biathlon because skiers must always shoot from a prone position. Athlete start times are staggered by a 30 second interval system.
Biathlon is divided into short-distance and long-distance. In short-distance, skiers race around a 2-5km loop and stop twice to take five shots at a target placed 10km away. Long-distance is similar but skiers must make five trips around the loop, stopping to shoot four times. For the shooting portion, skiers with a visual impairment use an electronic system that sends out acoustic signals to indicate when they are nearing the target.
Each target has five plates in a row that must be hit within their 15mm bulls eye. In short-distance, a 150m penalty loop must be skied for each missed shot. In long-distance, a one minute time penalty is added to the athletes time for each missed shot. The International Paralympic Committee uses the Nordic Percentage System to equalise across categories and determine one gold, silver, and bronze medal position.
The competition is open to men and women with a physical disability and visual impairment. The sport is governed by the IPC with co-ordination by the IPC Nordic Skiing Technical Committee following the modified rules of the International Biathlon Union (IBU). Cross-Country Canada is the National Sport Federation.
For classification, please refer to para-alpine classification description as they are the same.
Biathlon for athletes with a physical disability was first introduced at the Paralympic Games at Innsbruck, Austria in 1988. It became a medal event for men and women at the Lillehammer Games in 1994 where, for the first time Nordic skiers competed at the same venue used for the Olympic Winter Games.