- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - After eight individual events, biathlon at the Sochi Games forges ahead with the first Olympic mixed relay on Wednesday.

Biathlon becomes the third sport at the Winter Olympics featuring an event in which men and women compete together, after figure skating and luge, which also features a mixed team relay competition.

Biathlon has gradually expanded at the Olympics from just one competition - a men’s 20-kilometer individual race - in 1960 to 11 medal events this year.

Here are five things to know about Wednesday’s mixed relay.

WOMEN FIRST: Basically, the mixed relay is not much different from an ordinary relay, except for both sexes competing in the same race. The starting order is woman-woman-man-man. The women ski three 2-kilometer loops and visit the shooting range twice - first prone, than standing. The men do three loops of 2.5 kilometers and also have two shooting rounds each. Athletes can reload up to three times. For each target they still haven’t hit, they must ski a 150-meter penalty loop.

ALL NEW? So, this is an all-new, never-before seen biathlon competition? Eh, no, not quite. It may be new to the Olympics, but the mixed relay has been an established part of the World Cup circuit for many years and was first included in the annual biathlon world championships in 2005, with Norway winning the title for the past three years.

BJOERNDALEN’S BID: Since winning the opening biathlon race in Sochi, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen has been looking for one more medal to become the most decorated Winter Olympian. He didn’t get it in the three remaining individual events but this is his next chance to earn his 13th medal, which would put him one ahead of retired cross-country great Bjoern Daehlie. And if that medal happens to be gold, he’ll also match Daehlie’s record of eight gold medals.

CZECHS’ CHANCE: With Bjoerndalen teaming up with Emil Hegle Svendsen, Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff, Norway is a strong favorite. But Czech Republic has won the only mixed relay so far in the current World Cup season. And the Czechs have been doing well so for at the Olympics with Gabriela Soukalova winning silver in the women’s mass start and Ondrej Moravec taking silver in the men’s pursuit and bronze in the mass start.

MULTI-MEDALISTS: One day after missing out by a ski tip on his third gold medal these Games, Martin Fourcade will lead the French team in the mixed relay. The women’s three-time gold medalist, Darya Domracheva, will sit out the race though as Belarus has no realistic chance of winning a medal - even if Domracheva were competing.

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