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Men's mass start postponed, women still on

An athlete practices on the shooting range before the men's biathlon 15km mass start event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics February 16, 20
An athlete practices on the shooting range before the men's biathlon 15km mass start event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics February 16, 20

By Julien Pretot

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - The men's biathlon mass start was postponed to Tuesday due to poor visibility after heavy fog descended on the Laura centre at the Winter Olympics but the women's version would go ahead later on Monday, organizers said.

The men's 15km race was originally scheduled for Sunday evening but organizers had pushed it back to Monday morning. It will now be held at 14.30 local time (10.30GMT) on Tuesday.

As the skies cleared up in the afternoon, the women's 12.5km race was confirmed for its scheduled 19.00 local time (1500GMT) on Monday, organizers said.

"It's going ahead at 7pm subject to zeroing (shooting tests) which will be held between 18.00 and 18.45," a spokesman said.

The morning's light drizzle also affected the conditions, with the snow being extremely mushy.

"The salt on the track isn't working. They salted the whole course but there seems to be no interaction," said competition jury member Patrizio Curtaz.

The men's snowboard cross race scheduled for earlier Monday was also postponed due to fog.

Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Athletes have to complete a distance over skis and stop at a shooting range two or four times depending on the discipline.

As thick fog covered the mountains on Monday a view of the targets - 50 meters from where athletes stand or lie - was impossible.

It was the third time that a biathlon race at the Olympics has been postponed.

At the Nagano Games in 1998 the men's sprint was called off after heavy snow and fog forced the race to be stopped. It was started again the following day.

In Sapporo in 1972, the same scenario applied to the men's 20km individual.

France's Martin Fourcade, who has already claimed two gold medals in Sochi, and Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who is looking to secure a record-breaking 13th Winter Olympics medal, are among the favorites for the men's mass start.

(Editing by Mitch Phillips)

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