Tracy (left) and Lanny Barnes both competed in the 2006 Olympics, but Lanny will be the only sister competing in Sochi. (Mark Duncan/AP)

Tracy (left) and Lanny Barnes both reached the 2006 Olympics, but Lanny will be the only one competing in Sochi. (Mark Duncan/AP)

Last Sunday, U.S. Biathlon’s International Competition Committee announced its roster for the Sochi Games. At first the list included Colorado’s Tracy Barnes, who subsequently announced that she was giving up her spot to the next competitor on the list: her twin sister Lanny Barnes, who had become ill at last weekend’s trials in Italy and just missed the cut.

Tracy Barnes joined Bill Littlefield.

BL: Tell me a little bit about why you gave up your spot to Lanny.

TB: I think I just really felt that Lanny was a strong competitor. She’s been having a really great year this year – really good results – and I believed that she was gonna have a great time in Sochi, and I felt that she really deserved to go.

BL: Now I have heard that twins sometimes have a sort of telepathic ability to communicate. Do you think Lanny had some idea this was coming?

TB: You know, we do have a bit of telepathy, but I think this one kind of shocked her. She didn’t see it coming.

At first when I told her she protested. She was like, ‘You can’t do that.’
– Tracy Barnes

BL: But what did she say?

TB: At first when I told her she protested. She was like, ‘You can’t do that. You need to go. You deserve it. You made the spot.’ And then I told her how much it meant to me, and that I wanted to do it, so she was OK with it.

BL: Well, now, you made your case in a very logical way, but it must have been emotional for both of you, I would think.

TB: Oh, yeah, it was highly emotional. There were a lot of tears shed, for sure.

BL: You made the 2006 Games in Turin, along with your sister. But in 2010, only Lanny made the cut for Vancouver. It can’t have been easy for you to give up another chance to go to the Olympics.

TB: Yeah, for sure. That’s every athlete’s dream. That’s what we work so hard for over the years. You know, I would have loved to have gone there and represented my country because that’s such an honor, but I really felt so strongly about this and really wanted to give her that opportunity that I felt she deserved had she not had such bad luck during the trials. So I felt so strongly about that.

BL: Now Lanny is currently training in Italy, and she has said that your gesture will inspire her to fight even harder while she’s at the Olympics in Sochi. In biathlete terms, what does fighting even harder mean?

TB: For our sport, it just means having an inspired performance. And Lanny is really good at performing under pressure and getting a good race when it counts. You know, she had a really great result at the Olympics in Vancouver. She had the best Olympic finish for [American] women in, I think, over 16 years, so I think she’s on that track to having a good result. And the more pressure for her the better, so I think she’ll be good.

BL: Now I assume that you are both already thinking about qualifying for 2018 in South Korea.

TB: We’ll hopefully give it a shot.

BL: Do you just get better as you get older when you’re a biathlete?

TB: Yeah, so most people reach their physiological peak in late 20s, early 30s. On the World Cup in biathlon there’s athletes up to their late 30s. So we’re hitting just about that peak right now, so we definitely have a lot of time in the sport still. It just takes a lot of time to mature in an endurance sport. And then, especially with the shooting aspect, it just takes a long time to kind of figure out the maturity and the experience in shooting.

BL: Now I’m just not sure we’re finished with this situation, so I have a suggestion. Since you’re twins, maybe you and your sister can get a special dispensation so one you can ski and the other can shoot in Sochi. Kind of a tag-team arrangement. What do you think?

TB: Yeah, we’ll tag off every loop. That sounds good.