DENVER (AP) -- When triathlete Tracy Barnes learned she had made the cut for the U.S. Olympic team, she turned and winked at her twin sister Lanny. After getting sick during the final qualifying races in Ridnaun, Italy, Lanny Barnes thought her Olympic dreams were over and assumed her sister was telling her she would race for her in Sochi.
It was only later on a walk in the Italian Alps that Tracy told her what was really on her mind: She would give up her spot on the team so Lanny, a three-time Olympian who finished just behind her, would qualify for the team and compete in Sochi instead.
''She is my hero and this only shows true selflessness and the Olympic spirit. This has motivated me even more to not only represent my country but to represent her as well,'' Lanny Barnes, 32, of Durango told The Associated Press in an email Tuesday from Italy.
Tracy Barnes, who barely missed qualifying for the 2010 Olympics, was returning home from Italy and couldn't be reached for comment.
In a statement released by the team, Tracy Barnes said her sister had had a stellar season before falling ill and she wanted to give her a second chance.
''Lanny is my best friend and my teammate. 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,'' she said.
The twins' mother, Deb Barnes, told The Durango Herald that Tracy's motivation to go to the Olympics had waned in the last year. She is married to Durango Nordic race team coach Gary Colliander and her mother said they haven't been able to spend much time together because of her heavy travel schedule.
''Tracy is just ready for other things,'' Deb Barnes told the newspaper.