America’s Olympic biathlon podium drought continues

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The US came extremely close to a podium spot in the only Winter Olympic discipline they’ve never medaled in: The biathlon. I’m not an expert on the sport, I’m only pretending to be after watching a couple hours of competition, but when I heard the announcers say we’ve never even medaled in the biathlon, I was shocked.


In a thrilling finish, Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway won a three-way sprint to secure a comeback win over France and the Russian Olympic Committee in the mixed relay race. France and the ROC finished second and third respectively. The US was in contention but fell short.

How can America, a country with more guns than people, suck at the gun sport? If you’re not aware of what “athlon” the biathlon is, it’s the cross-country ski race where competitors ski laps and then shoot at targets to go on to the next lap. If they don’t hit all five targets in eight shots, they have to go in the penalty loop and do penalty laps before the actual lap.

If it sounds Calvin Ball-esque — like a sport that seems to make up the rules as the game goes on — it kind of is. It originated in the 1700s as Norwegian ski soldiers essentially created a race from training called “military patrol.” (I’ve long thought biathletes are assassins in their free time, and the history of the sport only furthers my theory. I can’t say for certain if Johannes Thingnes Boe is the Norwegian James Bond, but I’m not ruling it out.) It sounds like a bunch of guys got bored at work and invented a sport to pass the time.

I once created a game when I worked at Dominos called try to throw lids like frisbees and land them in the dough containers. I was the best at the now closed 184th and Dodge Domino’s location in Omaha, Nebraska, and I’d like to petition the IOC to enter it in the next Olympic Games.

But back to the biathlon. It says something about America that we have the most guns yet fail to use them correctly even in competition. The US misfired late and had to take a penalty lap because of the poor marksmanship. The inaccurate shooting may have had something to do with the strong winds the announcers kept obsessing over, but I’ve watched “American Sniper,” and if Bradley Cooper can hit targets a mile away, actual professionals should be able to account for a breeze.

I’m also not one to talk because I can barely kill a pheasant when it’s planted in a field for me. Thankfully, my dad is a crack shot. Apparently, not all of our biathletes are as adept as Steve Beckwith, though.


NPR did a nice write-up on how America has had biathlon success in non-Olympic competition, but when talking about obscure sports, non-Olympic hardware might as well be used as paper weights. (Also in that story was mention of how well-funded and popular the biathlon is in countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden, etc. If it wasn’t so much fun to piss off gun freaks, I’d say that was behind our poor performance in the biathlon.)

There are a lot of reasons why guns in America should be used as paper weights, too, and you can add “Sucks at the biathlon” to the list.

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