How ski warfare created biathlon

It all started as a military exercise in Norway.

We interviewed a sports expert about the truth behind “mind over matter”:

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Biathlon combines competitive Nordic skiing with rifle shooting. Although biathlon is extremely popular in Europe, most Americans are unfamiliar with the sport. For many of them, the sport seems like an odd combination of physical effort and mental skill, but there’s a fascinating explanation for how biathlon came to be.

The sport of biathlon evolved over a long period of time and for much of that history it was primarily a military exercise to train soldiers for winter warfare. It all started in Norway, where a military officer decided to combine his love of skiing with his expertise in training tactics. Soon, the combination spread across Europe and national militaries started applying and developing his techniques to train their own winter warfare battalions.

In both World Wars, ski warfare played a key role in several battles—most notably during the “Winter War” between Finland and Russia in 1940. During that skirmish, Finnish troops used their ski prowess to elude and attack the Russian enemy. Although the Finns lost the battle, they were able to inflict major losses against the much larger foreign army.

Once WWII ended, soldiers returned home and began popularizing the sport of skiing around the world. Instead of using their ski skills for warfare, they turned to recreational endeavors like ski racing, skill competitions, and biathlon. During the next decade, the ski industry boomed. In 1960, biathlon was introduced as an official Olympic sport and it has continued to grow in popularity ever since.

Although much has changed about the sport, modern biathlon still retains the unmistakable traces of its military origins. To learn what those are, make sure to watch the video above.


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32 comments for “How ski warfare created biathlon

  1. Vox
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    The Winter Olympics are over, but that doesn't mean we're done being obsessed with the events. We interviewed an expert about the Olympics, ultra-endurance events like biathlon, and the truth behind "mind over matter" in sport:

  2. Missing Diamond
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    History can be weird sometimes

  3. Potassium Cyanide
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    You sure it wasn't created by simo hayha?

  4. Mr Norsk-Finn
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Proud to be a Finnish.

  5. paanikki
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Alpine skiing has nothing to do with biathlon or the Finnish winter war. Nordic skiing (cross country skiing) is a completely different thing.
    Another thing: nobody fights on skis. Skiing is a great way of moving troops from A to B fast in snowy terrain, but ski troops fight on foot.

  6. Willy Pp
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    White people sports are cool

  7. Stevan Terzic
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am


  8. Daculus
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Kiitos Oskari!

  9. Alia Ris
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Talk about having to concentrate with high heartbeats rate and troubled breathing…they should try Chess Boxing instead!

  10. Hissam Ullah
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    After the Finnish ski troops, Siberian ski troops were the best ski warfare units in WWII. Siberian troops transferred from the Far East to the Moscow front launched a massive counteroffensive against the Wehrmacht.

  11. H S
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Great stuff

  12. Nerf Elite Army
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    The only thing faster than light is…

    Simo Häyhä clicking on this video

  13. Oliver Marthin
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    2:03 When you use a poster that mean something else of what you said.

  14. Hoàng Trần Minh
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    i can already hear finns yelling soumi shouting about their white death simo hayha.

    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Remember when top gear did this

  16. Erik Nurminen
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    song at 1:39 ?

  17. master of cheese
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Ok so iv had an idea for the longest time and i want it to take off. Its call skate guns, take you're skateboard and what ever calibar handgun or rifle and do a trick off the ramp while hitting the target. Rules are simple each has one shot,30 feet away moving and the best tirck with a target hit gets the most points. Iv tried this with bb guns and it works pretty well. Only problem is safety concerns.

  18. Adham Labwam
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Lol, just got an NRA ad

  19. Thomas Bubniak
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    While I generally disagree with your politics, I do enjoy the fact videos of yours

  20. Martin Kronström
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Let's create a new sport. Swimming and fishing. Swimathon.

  21. IllumiNASI DAS Bildungfernsehen
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    I love biathlon ❤❤❤❤ Laura Dahlmeier❤❤❤🥇🥇🥉

  22. 산 테리
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Torilla tavataan!

  23. Macky Cabangon
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Should have been published on Finland's 100th anniversary

  24. corgidog
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    That looks awesome.

  25. Just Me
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Thank you for the video 🤗
    I absolutely love biathlon. I discovered it on TV a few years ago and have been watching every single race since then. It really seems to be getting more and more exciting every season. So many athletes who can finish on the podium and so many different events. I am lucky to live in Germany. Biathlon is after football the second most popular sport here. Obviously considering the fact that the Germans currently are the strongest team in biathlon, helps gaining new viewers every year. I really hope that it gets more attention, especially in the United States or Great Britain. It already is very popular in huge parts of Europe. This sport is so entertaining. Absolutely love watching it every winter.

  26. Brandon H.
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Nice 007 reference!

  27. Mathys Morin
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Last rest warrior mmvhrd model off graduate spirit military involve stroke.

  28. Samuel Tapia
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    night orientation permit treasure doorway round ratio.

  29. Faalhaas Meulenbelt
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Boss queen German ciazdd twelve such single garbage bag screen cattle.

  30. Drugged Plumber
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Alot of footage from Holmenkollen.

  31. Michael Christon
    June 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Yeah… the historical accuracy is bs in this

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