Around the Nation
3:23 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

U.S. Biathlete Gives Up Olympic Spot To Her Twin Sister

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 10:19 am

Tracy Barnes just secured a spot on the U.S. Olympic team heading to Sochi — but almost immediately, she decided to give it up.

She surrendered her spot to her twin, Lanny. The 31-year-old sisters compete in biathlon, the sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting. Both competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics, and Lanny competed in 2010 as well.

Lanny fell ill during selection races in Italy this past weekend, and she finished sixth, dashing her hopes of qualifying. Only the top five make the Olympic team; Tracy qualified at fifth place.

The two talked with All Things Considered host Melissa Block about Tracy's decision and Lanny's reaction.


Interview Highlights

On how Tracy told Lanny she was giving up her spot

Tracy: I think the decision came pretty quick for me. Although it's a very important decision, it's an easy one to make. ... I asked [Lanny] if we could go on a walk. I told her my decision, and she protested, and then I told her my reasons and how important it was for me that she go.

Lanny: I've seen how hard she works and that she deserves a spot — and she had earned it. But she's been very adamant about this, and I know Tracy better than anybody, and I know this is what she wants. I just want to make Tracy happy.

On why Tracy thought it was the right thing to do

Tracy: I think of it as just transferring it. I'm still in a way going to Sochi, it's just I'm going through her. ... I definitely would like the opportunity to go. There's no greater honor than representing your country in the Olympics, but giving her that opportunity far outweighs going myself.

Lanny: Tracy and I always have this false sense of each other. I always think she's better than me; she always thinks I'm better than her. And I believe in Tracy, and she believes in me. For her to do something like this, it gives me a lot more confidence in myself and in knowing that I can do it.

On the spirit of the Olympics

Tracy: You know, a lot of people get wrapped up in winning gold and the fame of that, but I think the Olympics are about more than just competing. It's about bringing the whole world together and celebrating that.

Lanny: Yeah, definitely. I think, you know, oftentimes we get wrapped up in the medal count. That's why I love that Tracy's story's able to be told, because a lot of times you don't hear stories like this.

On whether Tracy will still travel to Sochi

Tracy: I'm hoping to, for sure — just figuring out if I can swing heading over there.

Lanny: I'd love nothing better than to have her there because she's my source of inspiration. She was there in Vancouver [in 2010]. Having her there, I always do better. When she's gone, it's almost like you're missing a part of yourself.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Imagine you've just secured a spot on the U.S. Olympic team heading to Sochi, and then you decide to give it up. Well, Tracy Barnes did just that. She surrendered her spot to her sister, Lanny.

The 31-year-old twins compete in biathlon, the sport that combines cross-country skiing and shooting. Lanny fell ill during selection races in Italy this past weekend, dashing her hopes of qualifying. She finished sixth, and only five would make the Olympic team. Tracy was fifth, so she qualified. And then she made a choice.

And both sisters join me to talk about that. Tracy Barnes is in New York. Hi, Tracy.

TRACY BARNES: Hi.

BLOCK: And her twin sister, Lanny, is on the line from Italy. Lanny, welcome.

LANNY BARNES: Thank you.

BLOCK: And Tracy, when you realized that you had made the Olympic team and that your twin sister, Lanny, hadn't, how long did it take you to decide that you would give up your spot?

TRACY BARNES: I think the decision came pretty quick for me. Although it's a very important decision, it was an easy one to make.

BLOCK: It was easy. Hmm. How did you tell Lanny that that was the decision you had made?

TRACY BARNES: I asked her if we could go on a walk. I told her my decision and she protested, you know, and then I told her my reasons and how important it was for me that she go. Yeah.

BLOCK: Hmm. Lanny, you did try to talk her out of it?

LANNY BARNES: Oh, definitely. Yeah. I've seen how hard she works and that she deserves a spot, and she had earned it. But she's been very adamant about this, and I know Tracy better than anybody, and I know this is what she wants. I just want to make Tracy happy.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: So you said, yeah, I'll go. Tracy, why did you - you said earlier this was the right thing to do. So what went into that calculation for you? Why was it the right thing to do?

TRACY BARNES: In some ways, I think of it as just transferring it. I'm still, in a way, going to Sochi. It's just I'm going through her.

BLOCK: Didn't some part of you, though, think - you know, I do want to go? Lanny's been in two Olympics before. I think you've been in one, Tracy. But hey, why not? Why shouldn't I go?

TRACY BARNES: Yeah. You know, I definitely would like the opportunity to go. There's no greater honor than representing your country in the Olympics. But giving her that opportunity is - it far outweighs going myself.

BLOCK: Tracy, do you consider Lanny to be the stronger athlete?

TRACY BARNES: Oh, for sure.

BLOCK: And Lanny, do you consider yourself - thinking objectively, if you can - that yeah, you really do have the better chance at Sochi than Tracy?

LANNY BARNES: You know, Tracy and I always have this false sense of each other. I always think she's better than me. And she always thinks I'm better than her. And I believe in Tracy, and she believes in me. And for her to do something like this, it gives me a lot more confidence in myself and knowing that I can do it.

BLOCK: It does seemed like one of those, you know, heart-warming, selfless Olympic stories that sort of embodies what the games are supposed to be all about. Maybe they don't always rise to that level, but that's the ideal.

TRACY BARNES: You know, a lot of people get wrapped up in winning gold and the fame of that. But I think the Olympics are about more than just competing. And you know, it's about bringing the whole world together and celebrating that. And so...

LANNY BARNES: Yeah, definitely. I think, you know, oftentimes, we get wrapped up in the medal count. That's what I love, that Tracy's story is able to be told because a lot of time, you don't hear stories like this.

BLOCK: Well, Tracy, will you be going to Sochi to cheer your sister on?

TRACY BARNES: I'm hoping to, for sure. Just figuring out if I can swing heading over there.

BLOCK: Lanny, would it be important for you to have Tracy there in Sochi?

LANNY BARNES: Oh, definitely. I'd love nothing better than to have her there because, you know, she's my source of inspiration, and she was there in Vancouver. Having her there, I always do better. When she's gone, it's almost like you're missing a part of yourself.

BLOCK: Well, Lanny and Tracy, thank you so much. And Lanny, best of luck at the Olympics.

LANNY BARNES: Oh, thank you. I'm really excited about it.

BLOCK: Tracy, thank you.

TRACY BARNES: Thanks.

BLOCK: Twin sisters Tracy and Lanny Barnes. Tracy gave up her spot on the U.S. Olympic biathlon team, so Lanny will be going to Sochi instead. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Related program: