Andrea Henkel (r.) and Martina Beck of Germany, a biathlon powerhouse with excellent marksmen, compete in the 7.5 km sprint event at a recent World Cup. Both women are three-time Olympic medalists. Michael Dalder/Reuters
American Tim Burke of Paul Smiths, N.Y., shown here after taking second in a recent World Cup, has the potential to win America’s first Olympic biathlon medal. Christian Charisius/Reuters
Germany leads the relay race at a recent World Cup. Biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting, is a throwback to the 16th century Scandinavian military troops who fought while on skis. Michael Dalder/Reuters
Vincent Defrasne is France’s only returning Olympic gold medalist. At the 2006 Torino Games, Defrasne won the 12.5-kilometer pursuit in the closest finish (2.7 seconds) in men’s Olympic biathlon history. Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters
Athletes compete during the men's 15-kilometer mass start event at the 2010 World Cup in Oberhof, Germany. The unpredictability of the sport, in which a skier can drop from first place to 20th in a split second on the shooting range, has helped make it the No. 1 winter sport on European TV. Jens Meyer/AP
Jay Hakkinen, taking aim during the relay in Torino, narrowly missed medaling at the 2006 Games. Intense skiing followed by shooting is akin to sprinting up 10 flights of stairs and then threading a needle. Retuers
Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen skis to another World Cup win in the men's 15 km mass start competition in the eastern German ski resort of Oberhof. He has more World Cup victories – 91 – than any other Winter Olympian. Christian Charisius/Reuters
Sweden’s Helena Jonsson, one of the World Cup's most consistent marksmen, is literally the product of a marriage between cross-country skiing and shooting: Her mom's side skis, her dad's shoots. Tobias Schwarz/Reuters
Women compete in a prone shooting phase during a recent World Cup. With the clock still running, biathletes take off their poles, get their gun off their back, lie down, and take aim for their first shot within 12 seconds or less. For each missed target, athletes must ski a 150-meter penalty loop.
American Tim Burke has had a breakthrough season this year, leading the overall World Cup standings at several points during the season – an honor designated by a yellow bib (below) that stands out from the usual white bibs. Matthias Schrader/AP
The men's 15-kilometer mass start, in which all the athletes start together, consists of five loops with four stops at the firing range. Spectators can see the immediate results of each shot on a big screen that shows five black circles representing each skier's targets, which turn white when the biathlete successfully hits them. Christian Charisius/Reuters
Germany's Michael Greis competes in the men's 10 kilometer sprint race at the 2010 Biathlon World Cup. Gries, a three-time gold medalist at the 2006 Torino Games, is a top contender going into the Vancouver Games. Michael Dalder/Reuters
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway is aiming to break his countryman Bjørn Daehlie's record of 12 Olympic medals in a winter sport. Although his Olympic debut came in 1994, the 36-year-old recently announced he did not plan on retiring in Vancouver but rather had his eye on the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. Tobias Schwarz /Reuters
Reigning World Cup champion Helena Jonsson of Sweden (r) will be making her Olympic debut in Vancouver. Michael Dalder/Reuters
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Andrea Henkel, (r) and her compatriot Simone Hauswald take part in a World Cup in the biathlon stronghold of Oberhof, Germany, where many Americans have gone to train. Tobias Schwarz/Reuters
Sweden’s Helena Jonsson (center, yellow bib) came out from under the shadow of her teammate, Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek last year, and is now the most dominant biathlete not only in her home country but in the world. Michael Dalder/Reuters
A pre-Games calm pervades the Whistler Olympic Park in British Columbia before athletes from four different disciplines – biathlon, cross country skiing, Nordic combined, and ski jumping – were due to arrive in early February. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press/AP
Sweden's Helena Jonsson is sandwiched between Germany's Simone Hauswald and Magdalena Neuner on a recent World Cup podium – a place she has come to occupy quite frequently. All three will compete in Vancouver. Michael Dalder/Reuters
Saudi Arabia began airstrikes Wednesday against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain said they would answer a request from Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi 'to protect Yemen.'
ByKen Dilanian, AP Intelligence Writer
Saudi Arabia began airstrikes Wednesday against Houthi rebel positions in Yemen, vowing that the Sunni kingdom will do "anything necessary" to protect its neighbor from Iran-backed Shiite rebels.