An Olympic Story

Like most of the rest of the world, I'm watching a lot of winter Olympic coverage from Sochi, Russia this week. But I'm afraid the events I'm following the closest aren't going to get a ton of television time- if any, actually.

I'm following the biathlon, the combination of cross-country skiing and shooting. Like many of the Olympic sports, it originates from a military background. In fact, the inaugural Winter Games in 1924 featured the "military patrol" - but it wasn't really accepted until the 1960 games. It wasn't until 1992 that women competed in the games.

This year, I'm following one-half of a duo of Olympic biathletes that I've gotten to know- and compete against in a couple of the pseudo-competitions we put together when testing gear at events put on for writers.

Tracy and Lanny Barnes bill themselves as "twin biathletes" and they couldn't be more correct. I've been around them a number of times and have found them to be a pair of the most dedicated -and likable- Olympic hopefuls I've ever met.

This year, Tracy qualified for the '14 games. Sochi would be her second Olympics, having first competed in 2006.

But Lanny was ill, and despite having competed in 2006 and 2010, was going to be watching from the sidelines. That's until Tracy decided Lanny was actually peaking at the perfect time and she passed on her qualification- knowing Lanny was next in line for the Olympic slot.

Now, Lanny's at the Laura Cross Country and Biathlon Center near Krasnaya Polyana about 40 miles from Sochi, hoping to compete and improve on her twenty-third place finish at Vancouver in 2010. Tracy's been criss-crossing the country doing interviews with a mainstream media that's taken the twins' story to heart.

So what are Lanny's chances? If you look at history, they're not good. Germany has pretty much ruled the biathlon, winning 43 medals. Eighteen other countries have shared space on the medal stand, but none were from the United States.

But there are some things working in Lanny's favor. For instance, the competition is being held at 5,900 feet-near the maximum allowed for an Olympic competition. Lanny grew up at 6,500 feet and trains at far higher elevations.

Will that conditioning advantage be enough? That's a hard one to call, but I know that while only one Barnes will be skiing and carrying her .22 long rifle across the course, two Barnes hearts will be pounding every step of the way.

There's a tangible upside to their heart-warming story, although the story itself is moving. The story of the Barnes twins has brought more attention to the biathlon in this country than ever before.

And we've seen from the improvements of our USA Shooting Teams that one of the primary requirements for getting young people interested in shooting sports is exposure.

When young people see shooting sports, they get enthused. When they get involved, some of those new shooters will begin their journeys to becoming future Olympic champions.

So....go team.

Republished from The Outdoor Wire.

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