First time for Single Mixed Relay in a World Championship

This year’s World Championships has a newcomer. The single mixed relay enters the competitions today.

The team consists of one male and one female biathlete that ski two laps each. The distance is shorter and the penalty loop is half the regular relay loop.  The idea for this new competition form came when the mixed relay was introduced in the World Cup. Just a few teams managed to create a mixed relay team and the international organisation, IBU, started to think of other forms that could be shorter and still interesting for TV.
– We suggested this idea during an IBU meeting in Czech Republic and tested it in Oslo during the World Cup. NRK was filming it and we were satisfied with the arrangement, says Borut Nunar, Race Director of IBU World Cups and World Championships.
The competition form made its official debut in the World Cup in Nove Mesto 2015. It was met with different opinions and the opponents questioned if this was real biathlon and the believers saw the opportunities given with a short and intense race. When the teams accepted the competition form, it became clear that the single mixed relay would become a permanent part of the competition program. Out of the nine times that the competition form has been held, Austria has been on the podium seven times. A few times together with France who has been on the podium five times. Norway has also been on the podium five times and are among the the top three favoured teams for today’s competition together with France and Austria.
A new version of the single mixed relay was tested during the World Cup in Soldier Hollow in February. Earlier, the women always started and the men finished by skiing an extra lap before crossing the finish line. This time they did the opposite.
– There has been a discussion about why women would not be able to ski as long as the men. What we in the IBU have been looking at is the total skiing time that has been similar for the different genders with the different distances. But for the mixed relay we have started to think, and now tested, to let the women ski an extra lap instead of the men, says Borut Nunar, Race Director of IBU.

The change received positive response from the biathletes and by next season we might see a change in the single mixed relay. But first, a single mixed relay World Champions is to be announced for the first time in biathlon history.

Text: Emma Höglund
Photo: Göran Strand