National Edition

Her sister's keeper: Tracy Barnes gives her twin sister, Lanny, the gift of one more Olympic competition

Published: Friday, Jan. 17 2014 1:05 p.m. MST

Tracy Barnes, left, and sister Lanny during World Cup training in 2009 in Vancouver.

USBiathlon/NordicFocus, Courtesy USBiathlon/NordicFocus

Lanny Barnes tried desperately to hide her anguish as an untimely illness destroyed her Olympic dream last week in biathlon qualifying races in Italy.

Unfortunately there is one person from whom Barnes in unable to hide anything — her twin sister and teammate, Tracy Barnes.

“With Tracy, we’re so incredibly close that we kind of share emotions almost,” said biathlete Lanny Barnes. “I didn’t want her to see how disappointed I was. I knew my Olympic opportunity was over, but I wanted to be there for her, and I wanted her to keep her focus on what she needed to do. That was definitely hard, especially because I was not feeling well.”

After 31 years together, there isn’t much that the Barnes sisters, who live in Durango, Colo., don’t share. So while Lanny never expressed her despair, her sister felt it.

“She’s a very strong person, and she did her best to kind of hide her emotions during the trial,” Tracy said. “She didn’t want to bring me down. But I know her best. I know when she is hurting, and I could clearly tell she was upset.”

Which is why she decided before the trials had even ended that if she won the fifth and final spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic biathlon team, she would give it to her sister.

“Surprisingly, for the weight of the decision, it was easy (to make),” Tracy said of giving up her spot on the Olympic team so Lanny can represent the U.S. one last time. “I personally believe she’s better than me. She would disagree, but that was part of my decision.”

The other part is that she wants to see her sister happy and fulfilled more than she wants to ski in the Olympics one final time in her career. Both women were 2006 Olympians, but only Lanny made the team in 2010. Tracy admits it was difficult to be a spectator, but it also gave her insight into how the women can share one Olympic experience.

“It was really tough,” she said of not making the 2010 Olympic team. “When you’re in this sport long enough, there are a lot of ups and downs, and you learn to ride it. You just focus in on the next goal.”

This time, the goals center around their lives away from national team competition. They hope to start a business in the spring, and Tracy is three classes away from her college degree.

“We’ll make the decision for sure in the spring,” Tracy said.

For Lanny, the pain of not making the team was exacerbated by the fact that she couldn’t give the competition her all.

“I think it’s harder not being able to compete,” said Lanny, who is still in Italy training. “When you go out and you give it your best, no matter what, regardless of the outcome there is a certain level of satisfaction. You tried, and it just didn’t work out. Not being able to show your potential makes it 1,000 times worse because you can’t compete. And that’s a lot worse than not making the cut.”

At the end of the four days of racing, Tracy had earned the fifth and final spot, while Lanny finished sixth overall. After the entire team participated in a conference call in which the five U.S. women biathletes were offered spots on the 2014 Olympic team, Tracy asked Lanny to do what they always do after tough training or a grueling competition.

“We always go on a walk or run and just try to decompress,” Tracy said. “We review the race and just talk. I asked her to go on a hike with me, and I told her I had something to talk to her about. We went on a hike in the mountains, and I told her my decision. She protested pretty good. She wanted to see me go. … Once I explained why I wanted to do that, she accepted it.”

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