The mass start event is the only one where Biathletes depart all at the same time, sometimes giving origin to a lot of confusion and falls. In each mass start race only the top 30 current World Cup classifiers have the right to take part in the race. If any of the Top 30 Biathletes decides not to take part in the race, participants standing immediately below 30th World Cup’s place will be allowed to enter. Due to this particularity, the first mass start race is only normally held around the middle of the season in order to allow ‘the best’ to be somehow defined (although for the ranking all events’ classification count and thus it may change a lot along the season).
The athletes start in three rows of ten competitors respectively (the best 10 placed in first row and so on) and have to ski a total of 15 Km or 12.5 Km course (men or women), with 4 shooting range sessions taken at each 3 Km/2.5 Km from start (men/women). The first two shooting sessions are dealt in the prone position and the other two in the standing position. As in the Sprint and Pursuit events, missed shots force biathletes to a 150 metres penalty loop per shot that has to be completed immediately after shooting.
In the Olympic Games the selection procedure is different. Athletes who have already won medals before the mass start competition takes place, have the right to start at the Olympic Games Mass start. A further 15 starting positions are based on the world cup standings. The remaining starting positions are given to the most successful athletes of the respective Olympic Games or the World Cup who have not yet won any medals.
The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games’ Mass Start races were won by Russian Evgeny Ustyugovand and Magdalena Neuner of Germany, which announced her retirement after the 2011/2012 season. The 2011/2012 World Cup’s Cristal Globe were won by Darya Domracheva of Belarus and Andreas Birnbacher of the men’s Germany team