Sochi 2014

Watching biathlon

Men's 10km spring (8 February 2014)

Alongside curling (more at Watching curling), one of the winter sports that I like to watch on the television is biathlon. I have never really considered why I like it, but it comes across as an odd choice to many people, so I thought about it for a bit, and came up with the following answers and observations.

I think the biggest factor is biathlon’s sheer unpredictability, mainly because good or bad shooting can make a radical difference in athletes’ standings in the competition and in the outcome. It tests different skills, and is a physically demanding sport. Also, it is simple to follow, and easy to understand. I do not have to know the intricacies of the techniques involved or understand the difficult and opaque scoring system to appreciate what is going on. What matters is whether an athlete can ski fast, and shoot well. While it was exciting to watch events such as snowboard slopestyle or mogul, I cannot judge if something was good or bad, except that I understand falling is not good, and that detracts from enjoyment.

Anyway, I am so pleased that Ole Einar Bjørndalen won the 10km sprint yesterday: many years ago, I used to watch a lot of winter sport on Eurosport, and during the winter, weekend television viewings often comprised watching ski jump, cross-country skiing, and Nordic combined, as well as biathlon and Alpine skiing. Unfortunately, I no longer watch these events outside the Olympic Games, and his name brings back good memories of watching various competitions. O. E. Bjørndalen is such a great athlete and he deserves to become the most successful winter Olympian in history.