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Veteran Olympic watchers know that the Games are as much about the inspiring, tear-jerking stories of the athletes and their struggles, as they are about the competition themselves. So as the world gears up for the start of the Sochi Olympics, it's going to be tough to top the tale of selfless Barnes sisters of the biathlon for emotional impact.

Tracy Barnes, 31, made the U.S. Olympic Biathlon team last weekend after the final run of qualifying events ended. Tracy just happens to have a twin sister, Lanny, who is also a biathlete and a two-time Olympian herself. But Lanny had fallen ill and missed three of four races that weekend. So when the point rankings were worked out, it seemed Tracy, who narrowly missed qualifying for the 2010 games, would be booking her ticket to Russia and Lanny would cheer for her from the sidelines. 

Instead, Tracy voluntarily withdrew from the team, so that her twin sister could go in her place.

The sisters went for a hike on the mountain after the weekend's final race, and that's when Tracy broke the news to Lanny, her younger sister by five minutes, and they both cried, obviously. We did too while researching the story. As so will millions of Americans when they see the montage about them on NBC in a couple of weeks. The sisters informed family members and teammates about their decision, which has suddenly made the U.S. Olympic Biathlon team unusually popular. (Sorry, but it's not exactly America's strongest sport.)

"If you care enough about a person you will make any sacrifice for them. Even if it means giving up your dreams so that they can realize theirs," said Tracy, who previously competed for the U.S. team at the 2006 Olympics.

The Barnes sister headed to Sochi seems grateful for her twin's astonishing act of kindness. “It’s not every day that you are given a second chance like this,” Lanny told U.S. Biathlon's official website. “I thought my chance at the Olympics was over, but now I’ve got a second chance and will do everything I can to bring honor to her and our country in Russia.” NBC's dedicated Sochi research team won't have to look far for a story that will fill eyes with tears and make hearts swell three sizes too big. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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