Justin Piercy - Friday Feb. 7, 2014 06:06 ET

Sochi Cheat Sheet: Biathlon

5 things you need to know about skiing with a rifle

Biathlon: The only Olympic sport that combines cross-country skiing with firearms
The only Winter Olympic sport that combines cross-country skiing with firearms, biathlon was first contested at the Winter Games in 1960. (File/Getty Images)

The Sochi Games are on and you'll be watching some sports you haven't seen for the last four years, if ever. Don't worry! We have you covered. Impress your friends, family and co-workers (or, all three, if you're one of the Dufour-Lapointe sisters) with these interesting tidbits from Olympic biathlon competition.

1. So, what's with the rifle?

I think you're wondering why or how biathlon is a sport. It was conceived to be a sport that marries the endurance of cross-country skiing with the steady hands and patience that comes with marksmanship.

2. When did biathlon become part of the Winter Games?

It first appeared in the Winter Games program in 1960, in Squaw Valley, Cali. But it has its roots in the military patrol event that was contested in 1928 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, after being a demonstration sport at the very first Games in Chamonix, France in 1924.

3. What's new this year?

Biathlon competition will welcome a new event to the program, a mixed team relay. That's two men ski a 7.5 km leg, while two women ski a 6 km leg, all shooting twice (once standing, the other lying down.) If you miss a target you must ski a penalty lap of 150m.

4. Who are the Canadians involved?

Canada's biathlon team is composed of eight athletes:

  • Jean-Philippe Le Guellec, Shannon, Que.
  • Zina Kocher, Red Deer, Alta.
  • Brendan Green, Hay River, N.W.T.
  • Megan Heinicke, Prince George, B.C.
  • Megan Imrie, Falcon Lake, Man.
  • Rosanna Crawford, Canmore, Alta.
  • Scott Perras, Regina
  • Nathan Smith, Calgary

5. Has anyone outside of Europe ever won any medals in this thing?

Canada's Myriam Bedard is the only non-European to win Olympic medals (two gold, one bronze) in the sport, winning medals in Albertville in 1992 and Lillehammer in 1994.

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One of Bedard's gold medals was won by beating a competitor by only 1.1 seconds - the smallest margin of victory in Olympic biathlon history.

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