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Biathlete Tracy Barnes gives up her Olympic Team spot to twin sister

Jan 14, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

Lanny Barnes, Tracy Barnes Getty Images

Tracy Barnes could think of only one greater honor than making the U.S. Olympic Team.

Letting her twin sister go instead.

Barnes, 31, earned a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team following last weekend’s final qualifying races. She declined it to allow the woman next in line to go to Sochi.

That woman was Lanny Barnes.

Lanny fell ill over the weekend, missed three of the final four selection races in Italy, and her hopes of going to a third Olympics vanished. Five women go to the Olympics. Lanny was just out of the running until Tracy informed her of a decision she made before that final race.

“Love is selfless dedication,” Tracy said, according to 3 Wire Sports. “Love means giving up your dream so someone else can realize theirs.”

Tracy, a 2006 Olympian and five minutes younger than Lanny, knew the weight of her choice — a “heavy situation” — and wanted to give her sister a second chance.

They hiked in the mountains after the final race Sunday. That’s where Tracy told Lanny of her choice, which was received by protest from Lanny and tears from both, according to 3 Wire Sports.

“As the old saying goes, ‘Only the strong will survive,’” Tracy said, according to US Biathlon. “Most of the time, that is the case. On occasion the strong don’t survive for whatever reason. And that is what I feel happened to Lanny. She’s having a stellar season and she bound to do great things this year, but she fell ill during the trials and couldn’t race. Because of that she didn’t make the team. While most people would say, ‘That’s biathlon,’ or, ‘That’s life,’ — and they’d be absolutely correct in saying that – but what if that person who was hit with a little bit of bad luck got a second chance? What if someone believed in them enough to give them that chance? Well, that’s what I did.”

Tracy emailed her friends and family Monday, according to the Durango (Colo.) Herald.

“I think that her selfless act encompasses what an Olympian truly is,” Lanny said, according to US Biathlon. “Often times during the hype of the Games we forget what the Olympics are really about. They aren’t about the medals and the fame and all of that. The Olympics are about inspiration, teamwork, excellence and representation. I can think of no better example of the true Olympic spirit than what Tracy.”

Lanny, who has trained with her twin for 15 years, relishes the opportunity.

“It’s not every day that you are given a second chance like this,” Lanny said. “I thought my chance at the Olympics was over, but now I’ve got a second chance and will do everything I can to bring honor to her and our country in Russia.”

It’s often said the Olympics are about more than medals, that they are about taking part, sportsmanship and fair play.

“The Olympics are about more than just winning gold, or even competing,” Tracy said. “They are about friendship, cooperation, sacrifice, and a whole host of other things. Lanny is my best friend and my teammate. I see how hard she works on a daily basis, so I know first hand that she is deserving of a spot on the Olympic Team. If I can be the one to give her that opportunity, than that is an honor and a sacrifice that I am willing to make.”

Meet the U.S. Olympic Biathlon Team

  1. nothanksimdriving123 - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    I admit I don’t follow this sport, but I sure hope Lanny does her best in Sochi. Tracy has already earned the gold medal for being one extremely cool sister.

  2. mogogo1 - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    Awesome story. But they need to tell us who is who in the photo!

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      They would tell us, if anyone knew, including the sisters!

  3. wyomingsister - Jan 15, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    This is such a tough issue. Many coaches have had to advise athletes who feel motivated to act altruistically with teammates in the name of fairness. Ultimately it is Lanny and Tracy’s decision. As an identical triplet myself who completed intensely in running events with my siblings over the years, I will say that I wouldn’t want to be either sister in this situation. I wish them the best for a healthy, supportive relationship that will go way beyond the Olympics. One question that I wish had been answered more clearly in the article: Is Lanny generally considered the better athlete with a better chance of succeeding in Olympic competition?

    • bunnyip - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:26 PM

      Yes, Lanny has been putting up better scores than her sister Tracy in the past year. Neither one is likely to be a contender for a medal in this highly competitive sport, though.

      If I were Tracy… I could have never given up this spot. In 2006 they both got to compete… in 2010 it was just Lanny, with Tracy on the sideline supporting her… and in 2014 it could have been just Tracy competing, with Lanny giving support. That only sounds fair to me. But I guess to Tracy… it was just that important that the very best competitor represent the United States.

      • wyomingsister - Jan 16, 2014 at 9:36 AM

        Thank you! Your insight and knowledge help me understand the dynamic better.

      • cepb23 - Jan 16, 2014 at 7:32 PM

        It seems clear to me that Tracy did that because she loves more her sister than herself. Lanny has probably enjoyed her sister´s love and protection all her life, and now decided to take advantage of it again. Considering Lanny is not a medal contender, she should have refused the offer from her sister.

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