Biathlon added a fifth Olympic event, the mass start, to the men's and women's programs in 2006. Germany's Michael Greis took full advantage of the change, winning three gold medals to become the most decorated biathlete of the Games.
The United States' men's team had high hopes heading into the competition at Cesana-San Sicario, but came away with no medals. However, Jay Hakkinen recorded the best finish for an American in a non-relay event.
Men's 20km individual (Feb. 11, 2006)
Germany's Michael Greis won the first of three gold medals at the 2006 Torino Games in the opening race, the 20km individual. Greis, who repeated his victory from the previous year's test event at Cesana-San Sicario, finished in 54:23.0. Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the four-time gold medalist at the 2002 Salt Lake Games, had to settle for the silver, 16.0 seconds behind Greis. Bjoerndalen's teammate, Halvard Hanevold, took the bronze, 1:08.9 behind.
Jay Hakkinen recorded the best-ever finish, 10th place, for an American in a non-relay Olympic biathlon event. The Kasilof, Alaska native had three misses on the range, all in the prone position, but had the fastest ski time of any competitor to better his own U.S. mark, set in Salt Lake (13th). Lowell Bailey's Olympic debut garnered a 27th place, while Jeremy Teela finished 51st and Tim Burke finished 58th.
Men's 10 km sprint (Feb. 14, 2006)
Sven Fischer of Germany shot a perfect 10-for-10 and held off two Norwegians to win the men's 10km sprint, finishing in a time of 26:11.8. For the 34-year-old, four-time Olympian, it was his third-career Olympic gold medal (he would later capture a fourth in the 4x7.5km relay), but first in an individual event.
Halvard Hanevold finished second, 8.2 seconds behind Fischer. Frode Andresen, who appeared to be the man of the day before missing his fourth shot in the standing position and having to ski one penalty loop, settled for the bronze, 19.7 seconds back.
Coming off a tenth-place finish in the 20km individual event, Jay Hakkinen of the United States had high hopes of earning his country's first Olympic medal in biathlon. However, five consecutive misses in the prone shoot knocked him out of early contention. He struggled home in 78th place.
The top American finisher was Tim Burke in 35th. Lowell Bailey finished 46th, and Jeremy Teela was 60th.
Men's 12.5km pursuit (Feb. 18, 2006)
The most exciting finish of the 2006 Olympic biathlon competition occurred in the men's 12.5km pursuit, as France's Vincent Defrasne out-raced Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen for his country's second gold medal in 48 hours.
Defrasne took a 30-second lead after shooting perfectly in the first three shoots, but a Bjoerndalen victory seemed inevitable as the Frenchman missed two shots in the final standing and the gap gradually evaporated. The Norwegian took the lead one kilometer from the finish, and it looked like he had the gold in the bag when Defrasne stumbled on the final hair-pin turn. Defrasne kept his composure, however, and sped past the "Biathlon King" in the final 100-meter straightaway.
Defrasne explained the dramatic finish. "During the last turn I got a little mixed up with my poles, but in the end, I just decided I shouldn't be thinking about all this and I should just go all out for it."
The winner of the 10km sprint, Germany's Sven Fischer, rallied for the bronze medal after missing four targets in the two prone shoots.
Two Americans, Lake Placid natives Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey, finished well off the pace. Burke finished 36th, 3:57.4 behind Defrasne, and Bailey came in 48th, 6:11.1 behind.
Men's 4x7.5km relay (Feb. 21, 2006)
The German team of Ricco Gross, Michael Roesch, Sven Fischer and Michael Greis took the lead during the second leg and never let go, holding off a hard-charging Russian team to win the men's 4x7.5km relay for the fourth time in the last five Olympic Games.
The gold medals were the last medals in the illustrious Olympic careers of two Germans. For Gross, it was his fourth Olympic gold medal, all coming in the relay. For Fischer, it was his fourth gold and eighth overall Olympic medal.
Russia (Ivan Tcherezov, Sergei Tchepikov, Pavel Rostovtsev and Nikolay Kruglov) finished second, 20.9 seconds behind Germany, for the silver, while France (Julian Robert, Vincent Defrasne, Ferreol Cannard and Raphael Poiree) edged Sweden in a photo finish for the bronze, 43.6 seconds back.
Jay Hakkinen had the United States in excellent position for a surprise showing, handing off to Tim Burke with a 3.8 second lead at the first exchange. Burke held the lead until he missed three targets in the first prone shoot. Overall hopes for a first Olympic medal in biathlon were tarnished by poor shooting (seventeen missed targets and one penalty loop), and the American team (Hakkinen, Burke, Lowell Bailey and Jeremy Teela) finished 9th, 2:31.9 off the pace.
The Austrian team, victimized by a police raid of their Sestriere headquarters two mornings before, finished last, 6:34.9 after Germany.
Men's 15km mass start (Feb. 25, 2006)
The 30 best male biathletes in the world took to the start for the 12.5km mass start, which was making its Olympics debut in 2006.
Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was on pace to win his sixth-career Olympic gold medal before missing two targets on his second and final standing shoot. His errors allowed Germany's Michael Greis to win his third gold medal and cement his status as the biathlon star of the Torino Games. Only Korean short track speed skaters Ahn Hyun-Soo and Jin Sun-Yu matched Greis' three-gold performance at the Games.
After shooting clear on his final trip to the range, Greis passed Bjoerndalen and Poland's Tomasz Sikora to win in a time of 47:20.0. Sikora took the silver medal -- the first Olympic medal for Poland in biathlon -- finishing 6.3 seconds behind the German. Bjoerndalen was unable to make up for the misses on the range and finished third, 12.3 behind the winner, for his ninth career Olympic medal, a record.
Jay Hakkinen, the only American to compete in the race, had his third solid performance of the Torino Games. He was unable to win the first-ever Olympic biathlon medal for the United States, but climbed as high as sixth place at the final before running out of gas and finishing 13th. He had only one miss on the range.