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Road to Sochi: Durango's Lanny Barnes Grateful to Sister for Olympic Chance

Facebook/Twin Biathletes

On Friday, a Colorado biathlete will compete in her first Olympic event in Sochi and her bid for an Olympic medal is thanks to her twin sister. Durango’s Lanny Barnes initially didn’t make Team USA, her sister did. But, in January, Lanny’s sister decided to give up her Olympic spot so Lanny could compete. Since then, the sisters have received loads of press from around the world. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.

"I think when you care enough about someone, you’re willing to do whatever you can for them...even if that meant giving up my dream, it meant she could realize hers," Tracy Barnes says.

Tracy Barnes says she knew she would give up her Olympic spot when her sister Lanny got sick during Olympic trials in January. Lanny was unable to compete and lost her chance to make the Olympic team. Despite her desire to go, Tracy says she knew it wasn’t her time.

"I would have loved to go to Russia, I think there’s no greater honor than to represent your country at the Olympics. But, I felt strongly about this decision, and felt strongly that she should be representing the U.S. there. So, really in the end it was an easy decision for me."

Lanny Barnes is in Sochi, preparing to compete.

"It was very shocking and amazing, it’s really hard to describe. What Tracy did for me, I just don’t know how I’ll ever repay her."

She says after the Olympic team was announced in January, she and her sister went on a hike, a ritual they do together after every race. That’s where Tracy told Lanny about her decision.

"I was shocked and didn’t know what to say and tried protesting but she wouldn’t have it any other way and it amazes me. She’s my hero and I’ve always looked up to her even though she’s technically five minutes younger than me," she says.

The 31-year-old sisters grew up playing team sports together and hunting with their dad. When they came upon the sport of biathlon, they figured it would be a good way to keep in shape for soccer. 

"Once we actually tried it, it was just that combination and excitement of combining two almost very different sports into one. It’s kind of your heart-pounding, fast-action sport. It’s addicting when you do it, it’s fun," Tracy says.

This Wall Street Journal video shows the basics of biathlon: rifle shooting combined with cross country skiing...It has its roots in ancient hunting practices Northern Europe. Now, its the number one televised winter sport in Europe, with Germany and Norway leading the overall Olympic medal count. America has never medaled in biathlon.

"It’s so popular in Europe and Russia that they’re the teams to beat. For a long time, it was really hard to compete with them but finally we’re starting to close that gap," Lanny says.

Lanny’s chances of doing well at the Olympics are good. She’s at her peak physically and this is her third Olympics, so she’s used to the pressure. Her results have improved with each passing Olympics. She says her desire to never give up gives her the edge.

"I think a lot of it comes down to your mental strength and not willing to give in when everyone else has said I’ve had enough," she says.

Her sister Tracy will be cheering her on at the Olympics. She leaves mid-week for Sochi so she’ll be able to catch Lanny’s race on February 14th.

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