When biathlete Tracy Barnes learned she had made the cut for the U.S. Olympic team earlier this month, she turned and winked at her twin sister Lanny. But now, just two weeks from the start of the Winter Olympics, it’s Lanny who is preparing to go to Sochi, Russia, not Tracy.
It was on a hike in the Italian Alps that Tracy told her sister what was on her mind: She would give up her spot on the team so that Lanny, who finished just behind her, would qualify for the team and compete in Sochi instead.
“I was like, ‘Tracy, there’s no way. This is your spot. You earned this,’” Lanny recalled on NBC’s Today. “She was very adamant about me going, and she said, ‘No, I want you to go.’ It was a very emotional moment for both of us.”
And here’s the kicker: This will be Lanny’s third Olympics. Tracy hadn’t made the team since 2006, when the 31-year-old sisters from Durango, Colo., fulfilled their Olympic dream of competing together, and she barely missing out in 2010. But instead of evening the score at two Olympics each, Tracy gave up her spot to the sister she believed was more deserving.
“She is my hero, and this only shows true selflessness and the Olympic spirit,” Lanny, told The Associated Press in an email. “This has motivated me even more to not only represent my country but to represent her as well.”
At the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Lanny finished 23rd in the 15-kilometer biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship. But despite the highest finish since 1994 for a U.S. woman, Lanny’s Sochi dreams appeared to be finished after falling ill during final qualifying in Ridnaun, Italy. She only competed once in the finals, which, despite good marks, wasn’t enough to earn a spot on the team. Lanny thought her Olympic dreams were over, but in a statement, Tracy said she knew her sister and training partner of 15 years deserved to take her “stellar year” to Sochi.
In fact, Tracy said the decision wasn’t difficult because she believed in her heart that her sister deserved to make the team. In an email to the AP, Tracy said that belief outweighed her own wishes. “If you care enough about a person you will make any sacrifice for them,” she said. “Even if it means giving up your dreams so that they can realize theirs.”
The twins’ mother, Deb Barnes, told The Durango Herald that training has kept Tracy and her husband of five years apart. And while Tracy hasn’t said this herself, her mother said she could see it was beginning to wear on her: “Tracy is just ready to do other things.”
Tracy is not even sure she’ll make it to Sochi to watch, but she promises to be her sister’s biggest and loudest fan wherever she is. And Lanny, well, she said she plans to go all out and “bring home that medal for Tracy.”