How ski warfare created biathlon

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  • Published on:  Thursday, March 1, 2018
  • It all started as a military exercise in Norway.

    We interviewed a sports expert about the truth behind "mind over matter":

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    Biathlon combines competitive Nordic skiing with rifle shooting. Although biathlon is extremely popular in Europe, most Americans are unfamiliar with the sport. For many of them, the sport seems like an odd combination of physical effort and mental skill, but there’s a fascinating explanation for how biathlon came to be.

    The sport of biathlon evolved over a long period of time and for much of that history it was primarily a military exercise to train soldiers for winter warfare. It all started in Norway, where a military officer decided to combine his love of skiing with his expertise in training tactics. Soon, the combination spread across Europe and national militaries started applying and developing his techniques to train their own winter warfare battalions.

    In both World Wars, ski warfare played a key role in several battles—most notably during the “Winter War” between Finland and Russia in 1940. During that skirmish, Finnish troops used their ski prowess to elude and attack the Russian enemy. Although the Finns lost the battle, they were able to inflict major losses against the much larger foreign army.

    Once WWII ended, soldiers returned home and began popularizing the sport of skiing around the world. Instead of using their ski skills for warfare, they turned to recreational endeavors like ski racing, skill competitions, and biathlon. During the next decade, the ski industry boomed. In 1960, biathlon was introduced as an official Olympic sport and it has continued to grow in popularity ever since.

    Although much has changed about the sport, modern biathlon still retains the unmistakable traces of its military origins. To learn what those are, make sure to watch the video above.


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  • Vox

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    The Winter Olympics are over, but that doesn't mean we're done being obsessed with the events. We interviewed an expert about the Olympics, ultra-endurance events like biathlon, and the truth behind "mind over matter" in sport:

  • Pain

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    Are u guys not making a video on the Florida shooting

  • Lashan

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    2:45 That Olympic graphic was way too slick. Give your animators a raise

  • jhameel Bae

     (Mar 3, 2018)

    they always have good motion graphics and animation it is really hard work

  • Sir Jaojao

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    Lashan yes I agree

  • Asap Animation

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    As a Norwegian, I'm proud to wear skis and a rifle on my way to work every day

  • Turk

     (Mar 8, 2018)

    We don't have polar bears, we only have rysian bears, and beards.

  • Иван

     (Mar 5, 2018)

    Do your children wear a rifle on their way to the school as well?

  • New Message

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    Call it 'shooting skiers' and viewership will quadruple overnight.

  • Seppo Erviälä

     (Mar 23, 2018)

    That's what they call it in Finnish

  • Mint Mastering

     (Mar 8, 2018)

    Or GTA Snow

  • L A F O R Ê T

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    A sport involving guns and Americans don't know about it? That's crazy.

  • Ian Mackenzie

     (Feb 6, 2019)

    If it isn't stupid American football or NBA basketball, they are pretty ignorant.

  • J. Alexander Curtis

     (May 8, 2018)

    Americans are drawn to team sports and Europeans tend to be drawn towards individual sports. The only exception to this is really Soccer (Called Football by everyone in the world other than the USA) which is the most popular sport worldwide. Cricket has moderate popularity in a few regions like the UK. But other than that, team sports don't have the same popularity in Europe as they do in the states. Americans love Football (the one played with the oblong ball), Basketball, Baseball, Hockey, etc and we...

  • Zuzu

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    *Skiing and shooting at the same time? Sign me in!*

  • Lars Jorgensen

     (Mar 6, 2018)

    Haha! But to be fair to the OP, there must be a "sign in" at the Olympics!

  • Melissa Bennett

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    hate to be that girl but you meant either sign me up, or count me in

  • Online Commentator

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    "Finns lost the battle">Literally stopped the most brutal army in Europe, killed over 126,875 Russians and kept our independenceOkay Vox, okay...

  • Tom Siekman

     (Nov 11, 2018)

    They still lost in the end, however brave and epic their defense may have been

  • Lipidi

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    I wouldn't say that Finland lost the winter war

  • Johnny Dominguez

     (Apr 16, 2018)

    osku People may argue that Finland lost the the war, and the USSR may have won some land but as I understand it, they won enough to bury their 168 thousand dead in it.

  • Felix Mölsä

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    The Swedish poster isn't for the Swedish military it is telling sweds to volunteer to the benifit of their brothers (the finns)

  • Sir Jaojao

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    Felix Mölsä true

  • Aleksitaly92

     (Mar 1, 2018)

    Suomi mainittu!

  • Kaappo Raivio

     (Jun 5, 2018)

    Den jävla svenska

  • Kaappo Raivio

     (Jun 5, 2018)