Women in Biathlon (history)

Following the change to small bore rifles, interest in biathlon among women and girls began to rise. By 1982, the European Cup was established for women. This competitive tour followed the Men’s World Cup throughout Europe. In 1986, by which time competitors from 3 continents had joined the tour, the events were elevated to the status of World Cups. Today, 120 women from 30 countries vie for the coveted title of World Cup Champion.

World Championships for women was inaugurated in 1984 as part of the World Junior Championships for men. Not until 1989 did women gain their rightful place at the combined men’s and women’s World Championships. That year, the World Junior Championships were opened for the first time to junior women. Despite the number of female competitors, the International Olympic Committee did not include women in the Olympic Winter Games biathlon program until 1992! In Albertville, France, the first Olympic gold medals for women’s biathlon were presented to Antje Misersky (GER) in the Individual event and Anfissa Retzova (RUS) in the Sprint.

Biathlon is classed as a life sport because it has had, and still has, an application in everyday living. Cave drawings found in Norway, dating back some 5000 years, give us the earliest record of skiing and carrying a weapon for hunting or fighting.  Historical records from Asia also tell of “winged horses” on the feet of hunters in pursuit of game animals over snow. The first historically recorded Biathlon competition took place near the Swedish-Norwegian border in 1767, between companies of border guards from the two countries. Generally, development of Biathlon continued through hunting and warfare until it became a demonstration sport in the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France under the name of Military Patrol. Since then, Biathlon has undergone many dramatic changes, including admission into the Olympic Games as Biathlon in 1960 in Squaw Valley and a change to small-bore rifles (.22 in) in 1978. Although women competed in Biathlon for many years,  women’s competitions did not become part of the Olympic Winter Games until the1992 Games in Albertville.