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The Signpost guide to the Olympics

When fans around the world tune into the Olympics, they are looking for elite physical challenges that are rich in history. Two oft-forgotten events at the Pyeongchang Olympics that are rich in history and require both snow mobility and hunting skills are biathlon and the nordic combined.

Originating from Scandinavia and Norway respectively, both events are practiced and competed in by scores of athletes from nations around the globe. Competition has already arisen in the 2018 games, with each athlete aiming to reach the winning podium.

The Biathlon features both skiing and shooting, as skiers race cross-country style toward a destination, only to reach a podium in which they must take a rifle and hit a target both standing up and laying down.

The USA's Johnny Spillane, right, and Italy's Alessandro Pittin look over as France's Jason Lamy Chappuis passes them to win the gold medal in the 10k cross country race of the Nordic Combined at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, Sunday, February 14, 2010. Spillane won the silver. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

Historians believe to have traced the sport down to a Scandinavian origination, as hunters would use skis to chase their prey while they had their gun strapped over their back. When they got close enough, they would stop and fire at their target.

Per the official Olympic website, “Biathlon-type events in Scandinavia are known to have been held as early as the 18th century.”

In modern times, when not being competed in via the Olympics, it mainly serves as a military training method.

In all events, athletes race around a closed course and stop at certain portions within the track to hit five targets with their guns from 50 meters away. Misses can result in penalties, and for the penalty, the athletes have time added to their finishing times.

Overall, to get the best score and win the event, athletes or teams must get around the track the fastest while hitting the target as often as possible.

In Pyeongchang, there will be five men’s and women’s individual and team races, as well as mixed and single mixed relays featuring both genders.

Team USA brought 10 athletes to the games in Biathlon. The entire team is from the northeast, except for a competitor from Minnesota and another from California. The United States has never won a medal in the biathlon.

Tim Burke of the USA skis during the men's 15K mass start biathlon at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Burke was the fastest American competitor in 21st place. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Not to be outdone, nordic combined requires the ability to hit a large jump while on skis and then trek a certain distance cross-country style to win the event.

An original Olympic sport, nordic combined is thought to have originated in Norway, as it is a Norwegian national pastime.

Historically speaking, they have also been the most successful nation in nordic combined when competing in the Olympics.

Starting with the jump, athletes who propel themselves the farthest get to start the cross-country section first.

The initial jump is scored by a table of judges, and athletes must strategize their jump based on the elements in order to get the farthest. They do this because any head start in the long trek on skis can help.

The overall event score is based both on overall times in the cross-country section and the score of the initial jump. The combination of the two is a score determined by a mathematical equation called The Gunderson Method.

The format is set up for individual events, team events, as well as mixed events. In Pyeongchang, the world will see ski jumping K90 (70M), team/4X5 KM and Sprint K120 for men, as well as the nordic mixed team NH/3X3.3KM.

Team USA has sent five athletes to compete in the nordic combined in Pyeongchang. Four of them are from Steamboat Springs, Colorado and the other is from Wisconsin.

Although they may not feature the flash and pomp of events based on elegance or trickery, both sports hold historic significance and require athletes to compete at the highest level in a multitude of athletic endeavors.

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