Sisterly Sacrifice: American Athlete Forfeits Olympic Spot For Her Twin

As a twin, news stories about “my kind” always hold a special place in my heart, but this latest one is a real doozy.

This past weekend, Lanny and Tracy Barnes, 31-year-old twin sisters from Colorado who both participated in the 2006 Winter Games, were to compete in their final qualifying races to join this year’s Olympic biathletes, who will head to Sochi, Russia, next month. (And, in case you’re wondering, Olympic biathlon combines cross-country skiing and target shooting.)

Tracy, who’s five minutes older than her sister, competed and earned herself a well-deserved spot on the team. Lanny, on the other hand, fell ill and was unable to compete in three out of the four weekend tryout races, which, consequently, disqualified her.

And here’s where it gets good. When Tracy was officially offered a position on the 2014 USA biathlon team, she declined the spot, knowing that her sister would be pegged for the honor instead. And she was.

Lanny, despite her temporary illness, was asked to compete for Team USA, and is now one of five American women biathletes who will head to Russia in February. Lanny told the Team USA site:

I can’t even begin to describe what it means to me that Tracy made such a huge sacrifice for me. It’s hard to put into words what she did and what it means to me. We have been training together every day for the past 15 years, and I know how hard she has worked to make this team. I think that her selfless act encompasses what an Olympian truly is.

I have to say, I would never have this problem with my twin sister, because we’re not extremely athletic, nor do we have many of the same interests, but in a fantasy dream world where this weren’t the case, I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same for her. Sisterhood (and more specifically, twinhood) is about sharing, giving, loving, and sacrifice. What Tracy did for her twin may seem foolish to some—giving up her dream and handing it over to someone else like it’s nothing — but if you have a sister, you’d understand. I always have, and always will, do anything for my twin — and for my other sisters. Are Tracy’s actions noble? Absolutely. Should she be commended? Yes. But any sister knows, that’s just what we do.