- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

Biathlete Tracy Barnes and her twin sister went from virtual anonymity to quasi-celebrities almost overnight and all because of one noble gesture.

After making the U.S. Olympic team in a sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, Tracy handed over her spot to her sibling Lanny Barnes, who finished just behind her in qualifying.

Tracy did so because she felt her sister, who is five minutes older, deserved to go to the Sochi Games.

Never did Tracy imagine her choice would resonate quite like this. She’s been all over the news the last few days, appearing on morning talk shows and radio segments, talking about why she would surrender her spot. Her story both captivates and possibly confuses some people.

So, why did she relinquish her spot to Lanny?

“Because I care enough for her to give up my dreams,” Tracy said in a phone interview with The Associated Press from the airport as she made her way home to Durango, Colo., after a whirlwind trip to New York for television appearances. “She’s going to be able to go for hers, and that means the world to me.”

Tracy isn’t quite sure whether she will make the trip to Russia to cheer on her sister. A ticket at this late hour is quite steep.

“But we’re working on it,” the 31-year-old said. “I think this has been really motivating for Lanny. I think she has got renewed motivation and she’s really excited. She’s got a mission and she’s going to be training pretty hard, preparing for these Games.

“I was never expecting anything like all this (attention).”

Then again, it’s not all that often a twin sister steps aside so another can compete in the Olympics.

This was Tracy’s reasoning: Lanny was in the midst of a really productive season before falling sick during the qualifying races in Italy and wanted to give her sister a second chance.

“I was so excited to tell her,” Tracy said. “Throughout the week, you could see her disappointment, knowing she wasn’t going to make the team. For me, the excitement was building. It really meant a lot to me to be able to do something like that. I was excited to give her that opportunity.”

They talked about it at length on a walk through the Italian Alps, with Lanny - now a three-time Olympian - pleading for Tracy to take her rightful place and Tracy passionately insisting on Lanny going.

“It was very emotional,” recounted Tracy, who made the squad with her sister for the 2006 Turin Games, only to barely miss qualifying four years later for Vancouver. “Lanny protested and didn’t think I should do that, give her the spot. She felt like I should be going. Once I let her know how much it meant to me, she realized it was a good thing to do.”

Now, it’s back to school for Tracy as Lanny resumes her training with the Olympics only weeks away. Tracy is three online classes shy of finishing her degree in marketing through Columbia Southern University out of Alabama.

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