'Honor and a sacrifice': US biathlete gives up Olympic spot for twin sister

After working four long years to earn a spot on the Olympic team, U.S. biathlete Tracy Barnes decided to give it all up for a teammate she felt deserved to go to Sochi even more: her twin sister.

Tracy Barnes, 31, who just missed qualifying for the 2010 Olympics, gave her spot to her sister, Lanny, who finished just behind Tracy in sixth place during qualifying. Lanny had missed three of the final four qualifying races in Ridnaun, Italy, due to illness and appeared to be out of the running for one of the five spots on the team in Sochi before her sister’s selfless act.

The sisters appeared live on TODAY Thursday to talk about Tracy’s surprising decision, which will send Lanny to the third Olympics of her career. 

"I can't even begin to describe what it means to me that Tracy made such a huge sacrifice for me," Lanny said in a statement by the U.S. biathlon team. "It's hard to put into words what she did and what it means to me. I think that her selfless act encompasses what an Olympian truly is. Tracy selflessly gave me her spot, and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity." 

"Lanny is my best friend and my teammate,'' Tracy said in the statement by the U.S. team. "I see how hard she works on a daily basis, so I know firsthand that she is deserving of a spot on the Olympic Team. If I can be the one to give her that opportunity, than that is an honor and a sacrifice that I am willing to make." 

The sisters from Durango, Colo., have trained together for the last 15 years, and both competed at the 2006 Olympics in Torino. Lanny, who is five minutes older than Tracy, was the only one to make the team for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She finished 23rd in the 15-kilometer event in 2010, which marked the best finish by a U.S. athlete in that event since 1994.