The International Biathlon Union (IBU) has continued its drive to promote mixed gender events by adding a new discipline to its World Championships.
Teams competing in the single mixed relay event will consist of one male and one female athlete, with women skiing a total distance of 6km and men 7.5km, on the same 1.5km loop. The discipline will feature for the first time at the 2019 World Championships in Östersund, Sweden.
Confirmation of the new discipline comes after the introduction of mixed relay at the 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Mixed relay first featured at an IBU event during the World Cup in Novo Mesto, Czech Republic, in February last year.
During the 2015-16 season, single mixed relays were staged at various events of different levels, including winter Youth Olympic Games and the World Cup event in Östersund, which marked the start of the 2015-16 season.
“After having tested out the concept in different IBU events including World Cups, the single mixed relay has been very much welcomed by our athletes, member federations and big crowds of biathlon fans,” IBU president Anders Besseberg said.
“Therefore we find the time has come to include it in our World Championships program. IBU is also proud to be the first international winter sport federation to have introduced mixed events on the highest competition level, and we fully understand that others are following our success of developing mixed gender events.”
Patrik Jemteborn, president of the organising committee for Östersund 2019, added: “Single mixed relay is a very exciting form of competition that favours the smaller nations who may not have as big team.
“Because our ambition with the IBU Biathlon World Championships 2019 in Östersund, from the outset, has been to create better conditions for the small nations and thus create a larger biathlon world it fits like a glove. We are now in intensive discussions with the IBU to put an exact competition program that will be as good as possible for the audience, competitors and the media.”