In biathlon there are 4 formats for races:

  • Mass start (12.5km for women and 15km for men)
  • Individual (15km for women and 20km for men)
  • Sprint (7.5km for women and 10km for men)
  • Pursuit (10km for women and 12.5km for men)

In the mass start format the athletes start all together.
In the sprint and individual formats the athletes start every 30 seconds.
In the pursuit format the athletes start with the delay accumulated from the sprint.

So sprint and individual both seem to be "individual" events and I do not understand why the shortest is called "sprint" and the longer "individual".

  • I tried to make the question more understandable. You are asking why they use the term individual for that race, correct? Feb 7, 2017 at 18:19
  • I am going to comment that the "Individual" event is the older event (with the original distance of 15K/20K) while the "sprint" event is a newer format to indicate it being "half-an-individual" (in terms of distance) - it becomes a more suitable distance to attract newcomers into the sport. This is similar to "Olympic" and "Sprint" distances in triathlons.
    – blurfus
    Feb 7, 2017 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


This presentation of 2015 IBU World Championships in Kontiolathi shows that "individual" is the oldest format biathlon event, so this definition was enough to distinguish it in 1970s' from the relay.

Literal translation from that Italian article:

anyone who has only recently approached the biathlon will wonder why this format is called "individual" when there are four kinds of individual competitions. Simply because this was the only existing format until the 70s and "individual" was enough to distinguish it from the "relay"

Although the definition of individual is still officially recognized by IBU (here is the link for men's individual rankings), it has become common to name this format simply with the number of kilometers (so twenty for men and fifteen for women).

Also Wikipedia agrees that the individual is the oldest format for biathlon events.

  • This doesn't make any sense. I would edit to clarify it but I have no idea where to start.
    – Nij
    Feb 5, 2017 at 8:36
  • This is the truth. The author of italian article is a biathlon journalist as you can see by his last articles. I add the translation of the sentences where he explain this trivia
    – Ale
    Feb 7, 2017 at 13:23
  • Again tried to clean up your meaning. Seems your language didn't come across very clearly, and you made quite a few spelling mistakes and word omissions that threw it off. I hope I made a little more sense of it, please do verify that how I reformatted it is correct Ale. Feb 7, 2017 at 18:25

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