Lanny Barnes competes in the 4x6-kilometer team event at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 23, 2006 in Cesana San Sicario, Italy.
Biathlete Tracy Barnes exemplified the spirit of the Olympic Movement this past weekend with a gesture of true sportsmanship.
After earning a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team during a qualifying event in Ridnaun, Italy, Tracy decided to instead give her spot up to a fellow competitor she felt deserved to go to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games more than she did. Although it was not in Tracy’s hands to pick who would replace her, it was clear that her twin sister Lanny would be next in line.
Based on Lanny’s outstanding performances so far this season Tracy decided that Lanny would be the better choice to go to Sochi for the United States.
Lanny was ill for the majority of the qualifying event, failing to participate in one of the races during the competition. Because of that illness, Lanny’s hopes for another appearance at an Olympic Winter Games seemingly vanished.
While Tracy finished fifth overall, her sister placed sixth in qualifying and failed to make the cut for one of
|Tracy Barnes competes in the 15-kilometer final at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 13, 2005 in Cesana San Sicario, Italy.
the five women’s spots available on the U.S. Olympic Team.
The 31-year-old sisters from Durango, Colo., have trained together for the last 15 years and are no strangers to the Winter Games. Both competed in the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Only Lanny qualified for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, where she finished 23rd in the 15-kilometer event. The performance marked the best finish for a U.S. woman since 1994.
In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show this morning, Tracy said she knew her sister was capable of making the team, but also understood that it was unlikely due to her illness.
“It’s brutal,” Tracy shared with “Today” host Matt Lauer. “It’s hard to explain how hard you can train for something and then luck just doesn’t go your way. It was disappointing for sure. …
“In this sport, you have to be 100 percent to perform at the level we need to perform at.” Tracy continued. “I think right away, when I heard she got sick, I knew the likelihood of her making the team was pretty slim.”
It is a tradition — a post-race ritual of sorts — for the twins to go on a walk or hike following a competition to discuss and critique their performances.
It was during this walk in the Italian Alps that Tracy shared that she had decided Lanny would instead compete in Sochi.
“Usually, I always know what she’s thinking, and she shocked me,” Lanny told Lauer. “I didn’t see this coming.”
She added, “It was a very emotional moment for both of us.”
While the verdict on the final position on the U.S. Olympic Team did not lie completely with Tracy, her decision to decline the nomination to the team left a spot open for the sixth-place competitor, which indeed ended up being none other than Lanny. All nominations to the U.S. Olympic Team are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee.
Tracy was steadfast in her decision to cede her position to her sister, and she said she has no regrets.
“All of us who are training for something like this that’s your dream, that’s your goal,” Tracy told Lauer. “But I felt so strongly about this that it outweighed any effort I wanted to do to go to Sochi.”
On their website, www.twinbiathletes.com, Tracy issued the following statement:
“Yesterday I (Tracy) was named to the Olympic Team! I cannot think of any greater honor in the world than representing your country, save one… Lanny fell ill during the trials and was unable to race enough of the races she needed to qualify for the Olympic Team. She is having a stellar year and I for one want to see where she can take it…what heights she can climb to. So, in honor of friendship, cooperation, and sacrifice I declined my spot on the Olympic Team. This freed up a spot so that Lanny could be named to the team. Please help me in cheering her on in Sochi. I know she is destined for great things at the games.
“I can't even begin to describe what it means to me that Tracy made such a huge sacrifice for me,” Lanny said in a statement by the US Biathlon Association. “It’s hard to put into words what she did and what it means to me. I think that her selfless act encompasses what an Olympian truly is. Tracy selflessly gave me her spot, and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity.”
When asked by Lauer if she will feel any additional pressure at the Winter Games because of the opportunity given to her by her sister, Lanny seemed confident in her ability.
“I want to do my best for Tracy,” Lanny said. “I always do better under pressure, but I’m definitely going to push as hard as I can and fight that much harder for her.”
“It was one of those moments that changed my life forever,” Lanny said.
Scottie Bibb is a writer from Colorado. She is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.