Common goals and targets
Growing up in Durango, Colorado, Lanny and Tracy Barnes had passions for two sports: soccer and shooting. They played soccer together through high school, and dreamed of playing on the U.S. Olympic women's soccer team. In shooting, they started out shooting arrows with tips made out of rubber suction cups before moving to pellet guns and small-bore rifles. As an early motivation, their father Thad gave them a quarter for every bull's eye, before the quarter supply became too depleted. Later, the twins competed in three-position (prone, kneeling and standing) shooting events. At one of those competitions, they met a USA Biathlon recruiter, who was able to interest them in the skiing and shooting sport.
Which twin is which?
There isn't much that distinguishes identical twins Lanny and Tracy Barnes in terms of age (Lanny is five minutes older) or height (Tracy is one inch taller), and the untrained eye may not be able to distinguish them on the biathlon course or range. The main distinguishing features between the sisters are the colors of their rifles and their hair styles and their ski techniques. When Lanny skis, she holds her hands far out. "People say that it looks like I'm flapping my wings or trying to fly."
2006 contained many athletic highlights for Lanny. She was named to her first U.S. Olympic team and started one individual race and took the baton from her sister for the third leg of the 4x6km relay. While competing was great, her fondest memory of the Torino Games was the closing ceremony for its relaxed but festive atmosphere. Later that year, she achieved her best result in a non-relay event, 15th place in the 15km individual at the World Cup spot in Ostersund.
Shooting with the stars
In December 2008, Lanny was invited to participate in the seventh annual Biathlon World Team Challenge in the Veltins-Arena, the home stadium for Gelsenkirchen-based Bundesliga soccer club Schalke 04. Representing the United States with Jay Hakkinen in the ten-team relay, she called it "one of the best experiences I've ever had in biathlon." The day-long event, which included a carnival, celebrity biathlon race, light show and fireworks, attracted 50,000 fans paying up to $50 a ticket. Organizers even put bullet-proof glass around the shooting range to pack in more fans. If such an event could be held in the United States, Lanny's top choices would be Times Square or "someplace warm and fun" like San Diego.
Lanny and Tracy Barnes consider each other as best friends, and briefly, listed each other as personal coaches on the federation web site. Since 2001, when they both made their European debuts, in the 7.5km sprint in Ridnaun-Val Ridanna, Italy, the duo have trained and competed together almost exclusively. Their best result together came at the 2002 Junior World Championships where they made up two-thirds of the American 3x7.5km relay team that won a silver medal. The sisters estimate that they are split up only once every season. In 2009, Lanny competed at a World Cup in Ruhpolding, Germany, while her sister went to a B-level Europa Cup event.
Lunch on the line
The twins share a competitive fire, but each one is reluctant to take credit at the other's expense. However, every time they go out on the range - with skis or without - they have shooting contests and put something on the line, like lunch, an ice cream, laundry or cleaning duty. The result: pretty even. During the 2008-09 World Cup season, Tracy's shooting percentage bested Lanny's by a mere two percent, but supremacy in that statistic has gone back and forth over the years. In the first official biathlon race between the two, in Lake Placid, Tracy won, but Lanny finished ahead in their European debut in Ridnaun and has had a slight edge on the senior circuit since then.
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.