Biathlon was introduced in Innsbruck in 1988 for athletes with a physical impairment, and in 1992, athletes with a visual impairment also became eligible to compete.
The event consists of a 7.5km route divided into three 2.5km stages. Between the two stages athletes must hit two targets located at a distance of 10m. Each miss is penalized by an increase in the overall route time. The most important success factor lies in the capability of alternating the skills of physical endurance and shooting accuracy during the competition. Athletes with blindness/visual impairment are assisted by acoustic signals, which depending on signal intensity indicate when the athlete is on target. The sport is governed by the IPC with coordination by the IPC Nordic Skiing Technical Committee following the modified rules of the International Biathlon Union (IBU).
Rifle: The rifle shall be any type of air or CO2 rifle of conventional appearance with a five shot clip and in accordance with specifications of the International Union of Shooting’s (U. I. T) rule. For Blind class the rifle will be equipped with electro-acoustic glasses (optronic system).
Blind athletes are shooting with an electronic rifle that allows aiming by hearing. The closer the rifle points to the center of the target the higher the tone is. The different tones that occur when the rifle is moved, allows the shooter to find the exact center of the target.
Sit-Ski: Some athletes with a physical disability compete from a sitting position using a sit-ski, also called a mono-ski. As the name suggests, mono-skis have a specially fitted chair over a single ski. The chair includes seat belts and other strapping, as well as a suspension device to minimize wear and tear on the skier’s body.
Ski: Made from fiberglass, classical skis are usually 25cm to 30cm taller than the height of a skier. They are light, weighing less than 0.45kg each; and narrow, with curved tips and a cambered midsection, which is thicker and arched. Free technique skis are about 10cm to 15cm shorter for greater maneuvering. They are also nominally stiffer and have tips that curve less than classical technique skis. The underside of both types of skis has a groove down the center to keep the ski straight when going downhill.
Target: Biathlon uses metal drop-down targets which consist of a white target face plate with five target apertures, behind which are five independently operating knock down, falling plate scoring targets. The scoring plates must be black. A hit must be indicated by the black target circle being replaced by a white indicator disc. The target size has a diameter of 30mm for visually impaired athletes (class B) and 20mm for athletes with a physical disability (class LW).
The Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Winter Games marked several other milestones in the history of Paralympic Nordic Skiing. Biathlon was introduced as a medal event for men and women, and for the first time Nordic skiers competed at the same venue used for the Olympic Winter Games.