MOSCOW, March 07, /ITAR-TASS/. Biathlon was first included in the Paralympic programme in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1988. Competition for visually challenged athletes was introduced four years later in Albertville, France.
In Paralympic biathlon athletes should hit targets at a 10-meter firing distance from the prone position. Missed target is punished with a penalty time or penalty loops. Rifles always remain at the firing line. Visually impaired athletes use special electronic rifles that give a signal that grows stronger as aiming nears centre of the target. Targets for visually disabled athletes are larger than for others, 30 millimeters.
In Sochi biathletes will vie for 18 medal sets: men on 7.5, 12.5 and 15 km distances, women - on 6, 10 and 12.5 km distances. Titles will be assigned in three categories similar to those in cross-country skiing (from standing, lying positions and for visually impaired athletes). The competition will be held on March 8-14 in the Laura cross-country skiing and biathlon centre.
Russian biathletes took part in six Paralympic Games and took 13 golds, 16 silvers and 8 bronzes. The first Russian Paralympic biathlon champion was Boris Bogdanov (visually impaired athlete) who represented the team of former Soviet republics in Albertville in 1992.
At the 2010 Paralympic in Vancouver, Canada, Russian biathletes fared best in unofficial team scoring with 16 medals (5 golds, 7 silvers and 4 bronzes). Irek Zaripov took two golds from a sitting position and also became twofold Paralympic champion in cross-country skiing.