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Germany takes Biathlon
Results of Men's 20 km Individual Biathlon
By Jennifer Payne, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Germany's  Michael Greis
Germany's Greis celebrates with gold medal for men's 20 km individual biathlon event at the Winter Olympic Games Germany's Michael Greis celebrates with his gold medal for the men's 20 km individual biathlon event at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, February 11, 2006.
(Photo: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)
Saturday, February 11—Biathletes raced against the clock today to complete the Men's 20 km Individual Biathlon through the icy snow of Cesana San Sicario, Italy. The men's biathlon was one of the first Olympic events on the first day of the 2006 Winter Games.

The competitors each skied swiftly and stopped at each station of targets to shoot their rifles.

Jay Hakkinen, Lowell Bailey, Jeremy Teela, and Tim Burke represented the U.S. against some 60 other competitors.

For two hours, one by one, competitors from all over the world were timed as they competed. Many competitors missed their targets, hurting their chances for gold. Once all the competitors reached the finish line, the results were in.

In the U.S. Jay Hakkinen took 10th place, Lowell Bailey took 27th place, Jeremy Teela took 51st place, and Tim Burke took 58th place.

Winning the bronze was Halvard Hanevold from Norway, with a time of 55:31.9. The silver medal went to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen from Norway, with a time of 54:39.0.

Michael Greis from Germany won the gold with a time of 54:23.0.

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Rachel  Steer
Biathlete Rachel Steer helps Kid Reporter Hunter Gallogy work a .22 rifle hooked up to a computer that tracks his body movement. Steer uses the computer, which is at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to train for the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, in February. (Photo by: Suzanne Freeman)
Rachel Steer: A True Biathlete
By Hunter Gallogly, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Rachel Steer loves being a biathlete. Her sport involves both cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, and requires especially grueling endurance.

Rachel gave a demonstration of her sport to Scholastic Kid Reporters attending the U.S. Olympic Committee's Media Summit in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in October 2005. The summit was held to introduce U.S. Olympic hopefuls to the press covering the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, in February.

As a biathlete, Rachel has a lot of rules to follow. For each target that is missed, she has to ski an additional 150 meters. Targets are set up at different distances. Some you have to shoot from the ground. Others you have to hit while standing up.

This sport is won by completing the entire circuit in the fastest time. The skiers carry .22 rifles on their backs. The rifles are manually loaded and are specially made to fit each athlete. Targets are positioned 50 meters away from the athletes, who have to move smoothly from a standing skiing position to a prone shooting position in a matter of seconds. The athlete has to go from moving at top speed to holding a rifle while completely still within an instant. Rachel told Scholastic News Online that it is one of her greatest challenges.

"First you are going really fast, and then you have to stop and shoot at a target that is very far away," she said. Accurately aiming a rifle while trying to catch your breath is hard to do!

Training involves a lot of travel and dedication. Rachel trains six day a week and is always on the road. Her hard work has led to her ranking of 36th in the world. She also achieved four top-20 World Cup finishes in 2004.

At the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Rachel trains with her rifle hooked up to a computer and laser system, which keeps track of her accuracy and body position. She showed Scholastic Kid Reporters how to shoot from the prone position, lying stomach down on the floor. After comparing that to the standing position, the young journalists agreed it was easier to shoot from the floor.

Biathlon is an unusual sport that to which Rachel is completely dedicated.

"I love it and it is really fun!" she said.

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The biathlon combines the endurance of freestyle cross-country skiing with the precision of rifle shooting.

The biathlon's 10 events take place on courses of varying lengths. Once athletes have completed the skiing component, they must take part in a five-shot shooting session.

The competitor who completes the skiing/shooting circuit in the fastest time is declared the winner.

Whom to Watch
Top U.S. Female Biathlete: Rachel Steer
Top U.S. Male Biathlete: Jay Hakkinen

Top International Competitors: Female biathletes Uschi Disl (Germany), Anna Carin Olofsson (Sweden), and Kati Wilhelm (Germany); Male biathletes Ole Einer Bjorndalen (Norway), Raphael Poiree (France), and Ricco Gross (Germany).

Biathlon events will take place on February 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 21, 22, 23, and 25.

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Photos, left to right: © Rick Rickman/NewSport/NewSport/Corbis; © Joe Cavaretta/AP Wide World.