A unique aspect of biathlon is that there are several different race formats that test different aspects of the athletes racing. Every competition requires a successful athlete to be well conditioned, strong, experienced, and exhibit mental toughness unique to the sport.
Many WBA athletes compete in both summer and winter races, and as many others only choose one of the seasons in which to compete. Competitors are split into divisions by age and gender. In 2012 nearly 100 different athletes competed in summer and winter biathlons in Washington State.
There is an internationally accepted standard configuration for each format, however, the WBA tweaks the rules a bit in order to make our amateur-oriented races more fun and competitive. IBU-sanctioned races almost always have either three or five identical skiing legs, while WBA races tend to have skiing legs with different routes and lengths. The typical configuration for WBA races is listed below.
Individual: For the oldest race format, the IBU standard is 20km for men and 15km for women. The WBA usually shortens this to 15km for men and 12.5km for women. Shooting bouts in an IBU race are Prone-Standing-Prone-Standing, but to minimize confusion and range error, the WBA runs individual races Prone-Prone-Standing-Standing (like other formats). Racers are released in regular intervals. 1 minute time penalty for each missed target.
Sprint: 7.5-10km for men, equal or slightly shorter for women, with two shooting bouts (Prone-Standing). Racers are released in regular intervals. 150m penalty loop for each missed target.
Pursuit: Usually 12.5km for men, WBA races are often shortened to 10k for men and less for women. Starting order is determined by the previous day's Sprint, however, unlike in IBU races, the WBA assigns a set interval per place instead of the absolute time differential from the previous day. Four shooting bouts, Prone-Prone-Standing-Standing. 150m penalty loop for each missed target.
Mass Start: All the athletes are released at once. Typically 15km for men, WBA races are often cut to 12.5km (shorter for women). Prone-Prone-Standing-Standing. 150m penalty loop for each missed target.
Super Sprint: 5km with four shooting bouts and three extra rounds per bout that must be hand-loaded. 150m penalty loop for each missed target.
Summer race formats are nearly identical to winter formats, but the distance for every race is usually 4-6km. The penalty loop is similarly reduced to 70m, and the Individual format time penalties are reduced to :30sec.