2014 Winter Olympics Preview: Biathlon

( - This year's Olympic biathlon competition will be highlighted by the largest squad for the United States in 22 years.

Included in that is a feel-good story from two sisters.

Tracy Barnes, who participated in three biathlon events at the 2006 Winter Games, earned an Olympic spot while her twin sister, Lanny, did not. Lanny became ill during the final qualifying races in Italy. Tracy, though, gave up her spot so Lanny could take part in her third Olympics.

"I can't even begin to describe what it means to me that Tracy made such a huge sacrifice for me," Lanny said. "It's hard to put into words what she did and what it means to me. We have been training together every day for the past 15 years, and I know how hard she has worked to make this team. I think that her selfless act encompasses what an Olympian truly is. Often times during the hype of the Games we forget what the Olympics are really about. They aren't about the medals and the fame and all of that. The Olympics are about inspiration, teamwork, excellence and representation."

Lanny, 31, had a top finish of 15th place in the women's 4x6-kilometer relay in Italy in 2006.

Biathlon is one of the most demanding sports in the Olympics, combining skiing and shooting, and consists of 10 disciplines spread out over five events: sprint, pursuit, individual, mass start and relay. There are 11 biathlon medal events. The mixed relay makes its Olympic debut.

The U.S. squad, which has never won an Olympic biathlon medal, has its roster made up of first-time Olympians Leif Nordgren, Annelies Cook and Susan Dunklee as well as three-time Olympians Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey. Sara Studebaker, Russell Currier, Sean Doherty and Hannah Dreissigacker also are on the American roster.

The Canadian roster consists of four men and four women, led by three-time Olympians Jean-Philippe Le Guellec and Zina Kocher. Le Guellec had four top-15 finishes in Vancouver, while Kocher's best showing was four years ago, a 15th- place finish in the women's 4x6 relay.

Germany, Norway, and Russia are at the top of the heap when it comes to medaling in biathlon. Emil Hegle Svendsen and Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway are ready to repeat as champions. Svendsen won two golds and a silver medal in Vancouver.

Bjorndalen is one of the most decorated Olympians of any winter sport. He will turn 40 before the Olympics begin, but heads to Sochi with 11 all-time medals at the Winter Games, including four gold. Nicknamed "Der Meister," this will be his sixth Olympics.

Martin Fourcade of France, a silver medalist four years ago, is a top contender for the men. Darya Domracheva of Belarus, is one of the favorites to win the women's 7.5 kilometers. Norway's Tora Berger is the defending champion in the women's 15.