French Language Blog

French Biathlon at the 2018 Winter Olympics Posted by on Feb 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

Have you been watching the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang? (Tim offered some really useful French vocabulary for the Olympics last week.) If you have, and you’re based in the United States, you’ve probably been following several sports in particular, including figure skating, ice hockey, and skiing/snowboarding. There’s another sport that you may not be as familiar with, but that is very popular in France: biathlon (le biathlon).

Courtesy of Pixabay.

What is biathlon? Biathlon comes from the Greek word for “two sports” and, true to its name, it combines cross-country skiing with shooting. Biathlon is traditionally thought to have evolved from survival skills, particularly as practiced in the snow-covered forests of Scandinavia. While Scandinavian athletes have typically excelled at biathlon, so, too, have French athletes, and biathlon is one of the most popular Winter Olympics sports in France.

There are many different competitions (les epreuves) in biathlon, but the basic principle is that biathletes follow a cross-country trail that is divided into two shooting rounds, one shooting round where the athlete must shoot (tirer) his or her rifle (la carabine) at targets while lying down (le tir couché), and the other where they must shoot while standing up (le tir debout). For each round, the athlete must hit five targets (les cibles) and receives a penalty for each missed target, which can be added time or added distance.

French athletes have typically had great success at the Winter Olympics in biathlon. In fact, in the Winter Olympics France has won the most medals by sport in alpine skiing (45 total), followed only by biathlon (21 total). At Pyeongchang, France just earned another gold medal in biathlon by the famed French biathlete Martin Fourcade. His win made a French record as well, making him the most successful French Olympic athlete in history. Fourcade has one four Olympic medals, and has won the Overall World Cup in biathlon six times, making him the most successful biathlete in history along with Norway’s Ole Einar Bjørndalen.

The best part is that biathlon competitions are only just beginning at the Olympics. You can watch more of this beloved sport in France this week. Check out the official Olympics calendar of events here.

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About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!