Biathletes Lanny and Tracy Barnes speak at the International Fair Play Awards at USA House in the Olympic Park on Feb. 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Tracy Barnes just wanted to do the right thing.
She dedicated her life to competing on the world stage and earned a spot on the U.S. biathlon team for the Sochi Games. But Tracy did not make the podium. In fact, she didn’t even compete at the Games. The 2006 Olympian declined her spot on the 2014 team so her twin sister, Lanny, could make the Olympic roster.
For her selfless act, she was awarded the Fair Play Trophy by the International Fair Play Committee at USA House. Other Fair Play Trophy recipients recognized at Tuesday’s ceremony include Canada’s cross-country ski team coach Justin Wadsworth and the Russian cross-country ski team.
“I think sportsmanship – which this award embraces – is made for people to go beyond the playing field or the ski course and recognize that there is more to sports than just a win,” said Tracy during her acceptance speech. “Sportsmanship is creating champions both on and off the playing field. And while I’m not a champion in my sport, I strive to be a good person and do the right thing.”
During her speech, Lanny stood by her side – just as the two have done for each other the last 31 years. With tears in her eyes, Lanny did everything she could not to break down during her sister’s speech.
“When she was up there giving her speech, I was choking back tears,” Lanny said. “It was really hard for me to not just start bawling. Even though Tracy is five minutes younger, we’ve always kind of thought that she should have been the older twin. She’s my hero, and I love her.”
During a U.S. biathlon qualifying event in January, Lanny was sick and unable to compete in one of the selection races. She finished sixth overall and failed to make the five-woman team. Tracy – who made the team – surrendered her spot, because she believed her sister deserved the spot and would have made the team if she hadn’t fallen ill.
“Sometimes in sport there’s winning and losing and sometimes you have to lose in order to win,” Tracy said. “While I didn’t compete in the Olympics here, I feel I have won. I’ve had the most incredible experience being able to cheer my sister on in the greatest sport in the world, and I couldn’t be more proud of her effort.”
Lanny competed in the 15-kilometer individual event where she finished 64th with a time of 53:02.2 at the Laura Cross-Country Ski & Biathlon Center.
Sunil Sabharwal, secretary general of the International Fair Play Committee, who presented the award to Tracy, said she was inspired by her gallantry.
“When I was first alerted of the story, it touched me,” said Sabharwal. “This was absolutely a no-brainer.”