Winter Olympics: Biathlon

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The Independent Online
ONE of the toughest events in the Olympic schedule, combining the huge fitness and endurance demands of cross-country skiing with the rigid control of rapid-fire target shooting. A biathlete uses up to 80 per cent of his available energy (twice as much as a footballer).

The sport involves a cross-country skiing race (10km or 20km for the men, 7.5km or 15km for the women), punctuated by the shooting - twice in the shorter events, four times in the longer. One shoot is from the prone position - five shots at five targets the size of a golf-ball from 50m - the other standing, with a sideplate-sized target. Misses incur an extra skiing distance.

The event, an 18,000 sell-out, has been dominated this year by Patrice Bailly-Salins, of France. Nathalie Santer, of Italy, is the leading woman.

Britain's Michael Dixon, in his fourth Olympics, finished 12th in the 20km in 1992, and the team is now under the former Norweigan coach, Ole Per Straedet.

British team: Michael Dixon, Mark Gee, Ken Rudd, Ian Woods.