Several Olympic sports lay
claim to being the toughest. The technicality
of speed skating, the skill of figure skating, the bravery of ski jumping. But there are few sports on the
planet that are as notoriously tough as the dreaded biathlon. (BURNING QUESTIONS – WHAT IS
THE TOUGHEST OLYMPIC SPORT?) Combining gruelling
cross-country skiing with shooting – No, it’s not a scene
from The Revenant, nor is it for the faint
hearted, quite literally. It requires the athlete to be
immune to the freezing cold, have perfect langlauf,
cross-country skiing technique, the deadeye accuracy
of a sniper, and a zen-like ability to
control his own heart rate. The seemingly unlikely
pairing of skiing and shooting has been a Winter Olympic
staple since 1960. But it might not
surprise you to learn that before it was a sport, it was
a Scandinavian survival skill. For this reason, it has
long been used as a training exercise for soldiers. In fact, the first known
biathlon competition took place in 1767, when
two Norwegian border control companies faced off
against each other. Roll the tape. What? Why haven’t we
got any footage? Yeah, to be fair, that
does make sense, yeah. When it made its
Winter Olympic debut in 1924, it was actually called
military patrol. So how does it work? Biathletes strap a 22-calibre
rifle to their backs and race around a trail. They must make a series
of stops to shoot at a line of five metal
targets 50 metres away from either a standing
or a prone position. Each missed shot
accrues a time penalty. So hitting
all the targets is a must. If you think the skiing part
sounds tough, imagine shooting accurately whilst on the verge
of fainting. Most competitors spend less
than 20 seconds at the range during a race, usually only taking a breath
and a half between shots. But it’s a delicate balance. Keep it in too long, and oxygen deprivation causes
blurred vision. Let it out, and
you waste valuable fractions of seconds resetting. Not only that, but
the athletes have to remember to flex
the large muscles in their legs or abdomen while
they’re lying on the mat to prevent blood from pooling. Otherwise, they would
be at risk of fainting. I’d just love to have those
muscles, let alone flex them. Now factor in the pounding
of a fully exerted cardiovascular system. When gliding into
the shooting range, their heart rates can
reach 180 beats per minute. It sounds like a lot, but
how does it measure up? The average human has
a resting heart rate of between 80 and
100 beats per minute. A road cyclist will often
experience a heart rate of 140 beats per minute. A swimmer may experience
165 beats per minute, as all major muscles are being
used just to stay above water. To give you a sense
of how fast that is, Flight of the Bumblebee is
played at 172 beats per minute. I’m out. Can I get a water? When your heart is going
all guns blazing like this, even the pulse throbbing
in your fingertips can cause
microscopic flinching. Invisible to spectators, this can nevertheless
affect accuracy. To compensate for hearing and
feeling your own blood rushing around your body, biathletes
often spend hours each week with a sports psychologist to learn to keep a clear head to compensate
for a trembling hand. I’m not surprised. So how do athletes
train for this, the most James Bond of
Olympic disciplines? Unsurprisingly, by skiing
for miles and miles a day. And if there’s no snow,
there’s no excuse. They use roller skates instead. The regime is so gruelling that they have to eat
5,000 calories a day. That’s twice the normal
recommended daily intake. Is it? Really? I mean, that explains a lot. Do you want more sports info? We’ve got plenty for you! Make sure you subscribe to our channel. Now! Go on. I’m watching you!

What is the toughest Olympic Sport? | Burning Questions
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