Tank Biathlon: The Bizarre New Sport Invented by the Russian Military

How It Works
Aug. 4 2014 6:01 PM

Are You Ready for Some Tank Biathlon?

DV1544889
Tanks from Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia compete at an event in 2013.

Photo by Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images

While the provocative war games being held on the Ukrainian border are understandably getting more attention, there’s another notable display of Russian military prowess going on right now: the 2014 Tank Biathlon World Championships.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Some of my now-colleagues disagree, but I’ve always found the Winter Olympic sport of biathlon more exciting in theory than in practice. It's an even slower version of cross-country skiing, and target shooting's not actually that visually compelling. Tank biathlon is another beast entirely.

Advertisement

Invented by the Russian military a few years back, tank biathlon basically works like normal biathlon … but with tanks:

According to the rules of tank biathlon, crews must navigate a distance of up to 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) evading various obstacles, crossing rivers and bridges and shoot at a set of targets. Tanks that miss a target get a penalty lap.

Teams from 12 countries are currently competing at the championships in Alabino, a town southwest of Moscow. The event runs from Aug. 4 to 16 and involves a number of rounds, heats, and distances. 

After joint security talks last year, Russian defense officials announced that teams from the United States, Germany, and Italy would participate in this year’s event. Evidently, that didn’t come to pass, which is not exactly surprising given recent geopolitical events.  

An international event was held last summer, but this year's contest is the first to feature countries from outside the former Soviet Union. Angola, China, India, Kuwait, Mongolia, and Venezuela are all represented. The teams have all been provided with Russian T-72B tanks, except for the Chinese, who apparently came with their own vehicles.

If you’ve already got tank biathlon fever just from reading the description, RT’s got you covered with over three hours of heart-pounding footage below:

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Nicolas Sarkozy, Thrice Married, Says Gay Marriage Humiliates the Family

  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 1:37 PM Subprime Loans Are Back! And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 3:33 PM Killing With Kindness My in-laws want to throw me a get-well-from-cancer bash. There’s no way I can go.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 22 2014 4:06 PM No, Women’s Soccer Does Not Have a Domestic Violence Problem Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 3:16 PM Watch the Best Part of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On the Run Tour
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.