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Biathlon Hat Trick
German skier wins his third medal of the Torino Games.
By Amanda Davis
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Germany's Michael Greis
Germany's Michael Greis (1) celebrates as he wins the Men's Biathlon 15 km Mass Start at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics Saturday, February 25, 2006.

Click here for more about biathlon.
(Photo: Rudi Blaha/AP Wide World)
Saturday, February 25—It was not to be for U.S. athletes competing in the biathlon events at the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, this month. In the last of the events, which includes both cross-country skiing and shooting, U.S. athlete Jay Hakkinen placed 13th in the men's15km mass start. The U.S. women's team didn't even have an athlete in the race.

Germany continued to dominate the sport. Michael Greis shut out Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen for his third medal of the games. He took gold in the mass start to round out his silver and bronze medals. Winning three medals of any color is known as a “hat trick."

Although he led for most of the race, Bjoerndalen finished third for the bronze. Taking the silver was Tomasz Sikora of Poland.

In the women's 12.5km mass start, Anna Carin Olofsson of Sweden took gold. Kati Wilhelm of Germany placed 2nd for the silver, while Uschi Disl of Germany won the bronze.

Mass start includes the top 30 competitors in biathlon. All competitors start at the same time, jockeying for position along the trail.

Members of the International Olympic Committee were on hand Saturday, evaluating the event. It has not been decided whether mass start events will be included in the 2010 games in Vancouver, Canada.

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U.S. Women Out of Biathlon
Russian women take the gold in biathlon women's 4x6km relay
Jennifer Shapp
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Thursday, February 23—Ever hear of a biathlon relay? It is an odd Olympic sport with a mixture of cross-country skiing, rifle shooting, and team relay racing.

The first of four skiers on each team begins the race. The rest of the team starts after being tagged by the skier completing a course.

Each member skis the course, stopping to shoot at a target. At the start the skiers must use the classical technique of cross-country skiing. They can finish the race with the faster freestyle.

Each competitor gets eight bullets to hit five targets. If she misses, she has to ski extra laps before rejoining the course.

The guns used are .22 caliber rifles. The targets are metal plates that turn white when hit. When the first of the last team member crosses the finish line, that team wins.

No American women's team has ever won a medal in this sport, which began in 1960 as an Olympic competition—for men only. Women were first allowed to compete in 1992.

Eighteen teams competed for the three top medals. The Russian team won the gold, despite the fact that Olga Pyleva, its star athlete, was suspended from the Games after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Anna Bogaliy, Svetlana Ishmouratova, Olga Zaitseva, and Albina Akhatova took the gold from the German team, which had won this event at the last two Olympics. The German team of Martina Glagow, Andrea Henkel, Katrin Apel, and Kati Wilhelm won the silver. France won the bronze.

The U.S. team of Rachel Steer, twins Tracey and Lanny Barnes, and Carolyn Treacy placed 15th out of the 18 teams. Rachel Steer, America's best female biathlete, is retiring this year at age 28.

The next biathlon event will be the women's 12.5km mass start on February 25. This is an all-star race, which invites the medal winners of the Olympics and World Cup to compete. Unfortunately, there will be no Americans in this competition.

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Florence Baverel-Robert of France competes during the 7.5 km sprint of the women's biathlon at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, February 16, 2006.
Florence Baverel-Robert of France competes during the 7.5 km sprint of the women's biathlon at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, February 16, 2006.
(Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images/NewsCom)
France Goes Gold
U.S. team left behind in the women's biathlon 7.5 km sprint
By Rebecca DeSantis
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Thursday, February 16—The biathlon is a two-part competition where athletes cross-country ski, then stop to shoot at targets with rifles that they carry on their backs. The 7.5 km sprint is the shortest of the five biathlon events at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.

Four U.S. athletes participated in this event: Rachel Steer, Tracey Barnes, Sarah Konrad, and Carolyn Treacy.

Florence Baverel-Robert of France earned the gold medal with the fastest time, 22:31.4.

The silver medal went to Anna Carin Oloffson from Sweden, while the bronze went to Lilia Efremova from Ukraine.

The top U.S. athlete in the event was Steer, from Anchorage, Alaska. She took 35th place out of 83 athletes. Barnes was 71st, Konrad 75th, and Treacy 80th.

The next cross-country event is the men's 15 km classical final on Friday, February 17. On Saturday, February 18, the women compete in the 4x5 km relay final. The men compete in a 4x10 km relay final on Sunday, February 19.

Wednesday, February 22 is a big day for cross-country, with sprint competition for men and women.

The final cross-country event is the freestyle. Women's 300 km freestyle will be Friday, February 24. The men will run the 50 km freestyle the next day.

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Sven fischer
Germany's Sven Fischer skis past the mountains to win the gold medal in the Men's 10 km Biathlon race in Cesana San Sicario, Italy, at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games, Tuesday, February 14, 2006.
(Photo: Michael Probst/AP Wide World)
A Shot at the Biathlon
Americans left behind by German, Norwegian cross-country powerhouses.
By Jonathan Amdur
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Tuesday, February 14—Four Americans competed in the men's biathlon 10 km sprint this afternoon in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, but they were out-skied by the Germans and Norwiegans. The highest-ranked American was Tim Burke at 37th. Lowell Bailey skied in 48th, and Jeremy Teela 62nd, and Jay Hakkinen was 80th.

The competitors ski over a distance of 10 kilometers, stopping twice to shoot 10 shots. The first shoot is done in a prone position, lying on the ground. The second time, competitors shoot while standing. Skiers are penalized for every shot missed by having to ski an extra penalty loop.

Germans have always excelled in this sport, and it was a German, Sven Fischer, who won the gold. The silver went to Halvard Hanevold of Norway. Frode Andresen of Norway won the bronze. The top 60 contenders will compete in the next event, the men's 12.5 km pursuit. That rule will leave Teela and Hakkinen out of the running.

The sport is called a biathlon because it involves two disciplines. Athletes compete in a triathlon, which has three disciplines, in the Summer Olympic Games.

"The biathlon and the triathlon have many differences," says Larry Parker, seven-time Ironman finisher and triathlete. "In the sport of biathlon, which takes place in the Winter Olympics, you combine the endurance of cross-country skiing with the precision and calm of marksmanship. I have only competed in the triathlon but have great respect for those who compete in the biathlon."

Both events involve high aerobic demands on the athlete. However, in the biathlon, the athlete is also expected to have expert accuracy in shooting.

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