Biathlon added a fifth Olympic event, the mass start, to the women's program in 2006. The competition was marked by wide margins of victory, and marred by a controversial doping violation that resulted in the stripping of a medal.
The United States women found themselves way back in the pack in the four races they competed in. Rachel Steer led the way with two top-40 finishes.
Women's 15km individual (Feb. 13, 2006)
The women's 15km individual event had plenty of drama both during and after the race. Six biathletes had legitimate shots at the gold medal heading into the range for the final time, and five - Germany's Martina Glagow (Beck), Andrea Henkel and Uschi Disl, Russia's Albina Akhatova and Norway's Liv Grete Poiree - succumbed to nerves. Poiree's three misses on the final standing shoot were the most astonishing, in that she had not missed a single target on her first 15 shots. Russia's Svetlana Ishmouratova was the only one to shoot clean on the final and she won the gold with a winning time of 49:24.1.
Runner-up in the event, Olga Pyleva (now Olga Medvedtseva) had her silver medal stripped after she tested positive for the stimulant carphedon at the post-race doping control. The original third-place finisher, Glagow (Beck), who finished 1:10.8 behind Ishmouratova, was bumped up to the silver position, while Russia's Albina Akhatova, 1:30.9 behind, took the bronze.
Women's 7.5km sprint (Feb. 16, 2006)
It was a historic day for France, as Florence Baverel-Robert won her country's first Olympic gold medal in an individual biathlon event in the women's 7.5km sprint. Her winning time of 22:31.4 came without any misses on the shooting range.
Sweden's Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek had one of the fastest skiing times, but could not overcome a miss in the prone shoot and had to settle for second, 2.4 seconds behind Baverel-Robert. Lilia Efremova of the Ukraine took the bronze, 6.6 seconds behind the Frenchwoman.
The event was marred by the pre-race disqualification of Russia's Olga Pyleva (Medvedtseva). Pyleva tested positive for the stimulant carphedon and was expelled from the Games and stripped of the silver medal that she had won in the 15km individual event three days earlier.
Rachel Steer led the way for the United States with a 35th-place finish and qualified for the women's 10km pursuit. Tracy Barnes finished 71st, Sarah Konrad 75th and Carolyn Treacy Bramante 80th.
Women's 10km pursuit (Feb. 18, 2006)
In the most dominating performance of the 2006 Olympic biathlon competition, Germany's Kati Wilhelm blew away the field to win the women's 10km pursuit at Cesana San Sicario. Wilhelm turned an 18-second deficit (from her result in the 7.5km sprint two days prior) into a 12-second lead by the first prone shoot, and skied alone the rest of the way for her third career Olympic gold medal.
German teammate Martina Glagow (Beck) won the silver medal, 1:13.6 behind Wilhelm, while Russia's Albina Akhatova won the bronze, 1:21.4 behind.
The leaders heading into the pursuit, France's Florence Baverel-Robert and Sweden's Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek, both struggled with their shooting in snowy and windy conditions. Olofsson-Zidek missed seven of her 20 shots, worst among any of the top-20, and finished 14th, one position behind the Frenchwoman.
The U.S. lone competitor, Rachel Steer, finished 39th, despite only two misses on the range. That result was the best-ever Olympic finish for an American woman in the event.
Women's 4x6km relay (Feb. 23, 2006)
The Russian women overcame the loss of a key team member and used a near-perfect shooting performance to capture the gold medal in the women's 4x6km relay.
The absence of Olga Pyleva (Medvedtseva) -- who was stripped of her silver medal in the 7.5km sprint and sent home following a positive drug test - proved to be no problem for the deep Russian team. The quartet of Anna Bogali, Svetlana Ishmouratova, Olga Zaitseva and Albina Akhatova required only two extra rounds and did not have to ski any penalty loops. Their shooting accuracy helped them maintain a sizable margin over the rest of the field throughout the race, and Akhatova was able to cross the line with the Russian flag in her hand.
Defending Olympic champions Germany (Martina Glagow, Andrea Henkel, Katrin Apel and Kati Wilhelm) took the silver medal, finishing 50.7 seconds behind, while France (Delphine Peretto, Florence Baverel-Robert, Sylvie Becaert and Sandrine Bailly) rallied to win the bronze, 2:26.2 behind.
The U.S. team of Rachel Steer, Tracy and Lanny Barnes, and Carolyn Treacy Bramante, finished 15th, 9:07.8 behind the winning Russians.
Women's 12.5km mass start (Feb. 25, 2006)
The 30 best female biathletes in the world took to the start for the 12.5km mass start, which was making its Olympics debut in 2006.
By the midway mark (6.7km checkpoint), it was a two-woman race for gold between Sweden's Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek and Germany's Kati Wilhelm. Olofsson missed one target on the final standing shoot, but held off the hard-charging German to win the gold with a finishing time of 40:36.5. It was her second medal of the Games, following a silver medal in the 7.5km sprint.
Three Germans followed Olofsson, with Wilhelm in silver position, 18.8 seconds behind Olofsson, and Uschi Disl passing Martina Glagow (Beck) for bronze, 41.9 seconds back. For Disl, it was her eighth-career Olympic medal in biathlon, a women's record.
No Americans competed in the event.