Once the land you call home begins to shake beneath your feet you start to lose faith in family. You begin to believe that anything once considered foundation is subject to turn on you. You start to question the security of the soil you have planted your roots in. It has been just over two-years now since Haiti endured the catastrophe that was a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Though the physical tremors are over there are still aftershocks plaguing the lives of the people who still call Haiti home. Though millions have responded to the “Save Haiti” effort, there is one man in particular dedicated to carrying his country on his back. In the coming Olympic Games, Samyr Laine, is determined to finally stop the 84 year medal-less drought for Haiti, and hopefully bring some joyous news back to his country.
Born in Newburgh, New York, Haitian native Samyr Laine began his professional athletic career during the 2009 World Championships. After watching the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a junior in high school, Laine gained the motivation he needed to really make use of his God given talents. Although an elite athlete, Laine is truly the byproduct of brawn meets brain. A Harvard graduate, Laine exudes the true benefits of being able to compartmentalize tasks at hand. Laine is a movie enthusiast, budding author, humanitarian, son, and a fighter. Recently we were able to catch Laine between the books and the track, and he was nice enough to answer a few questions:
Parlé Magazine: I understand you’re heavily involved in Haiti with your non-profit organization, “Jump for Haiti,” so how much would it mean to you to win an Olympic medal for your home country? Especially since the last time Haiti received an Olympic medal was about 84 years.
Samyr Laine: Man, that’s actually difficult to even put in words. To represent any country on such a grand scale as the Olympic Games is a huge honor. But for me to be able to represent Haiti, a country that hasn’t won a medal in 84 years, is just monumental. I feel like sports have a way of uplifting and uniting people. So for me to win a medal after 84 years would really do that, and I just really want to be able to play that part.
Parlé: Do you feel any added pressure going into these Olympic Games given the country you will be representing?
Laine: You know what, I don’t. I really don’t. I think that’s mainly because I have a great team of supporters behind me. From my agent to my manager to everyone I have surrounding me, they’ve all really helped to take that pressure off. They just constantly reassure me that they have my back. They just tell me that no matter what they are proud that I’m even able to compete at the level I am able to compete at. So that really helps, and on top of that I’m just prepared. I’m mentally and physically prepared.
Parlé: You’ve participated in your first outdoor World Championships back in 2009 and again in 2011. Now that you have been able to gain some experience on that grand of a stage, does your preparation change at all going into these Olympic Games? Are you introducing anything into your training regimen this year that you neglected to in past years?
Laine: There has been a bit of changes I’ve made. The most important one I think is that I’m able to fully focus on my training now. Last year while I was training for World’s I was also prepping to take the bar exam so that really took up a lot of my focus. Just trying to balance that amount of studying along with having to train and compete really just took a toll on me. However, this year I’ve been able to really pay attention to all those little details. Details such as technical cues in the triple jump, weightlifting, or just really paying attention to the mental aspects as well as the physical aspects of the sport I think is really beginning to pay off. I know it’s going to pay off in two weeks when I get on that Olympic stage.
Parlé: I’ve read recently that you originally started off a distance runner, then moved down to the 200/400 range. What is it about the triple jump that attracted you?
Laine: Yeah I was a distance runner for a short time but that was just because I was so small my coach didn’t know what else to do. Honestly, I wasn’t very good at it. I actually started dabbling in the triple jump my junior year of high school. My coach at the time realized that I had a nice bounce as well as a pretty good speed to strength ratio. Plus I also have nice levers. I have long legs and long arms that fit perfectly for an event like the triple jump. So really it just fit me.
Parlé: What do you see as your biggest challenge when it comes to gaining your first Olympic Medal? Are you finding any problems with your run-up phases? Are there any athletes in particular that you know to be stiff competition? What might stand in your way when it comes to standing on that podium?
Laine: I’ll have to say myself. Though I have had my troubles with my run-up in the past, that is slowly but surely beginning to be knocked out. In reality it’s all about bringing everything I have to that stage so it’ll match how prepared I am. Once I get on that runway it’s only going to be me. I can’t control how well or bad the other athletes do, I can only control me. I just have to keep in mind how hard I’ve prepared, and how well I’ve prepared. It’s going to be all about executing. Once I get out there it’s going to be go time, and I have no problem hitting that go button.
Parlé: So you’re a Harvard graduate which is a huge accomplishment in itself, what keeps you doing Track & Field when you could easily go on and become a business professional?
Laine: I guess it just comes down to the pursuit of excellence and the desire to do great things. I know there’s more left in the tank for me as far as Track & Field goes. I’m really just trying to get the best of all the gifts that I’ve been blessed with. To sell myself short would be me not honoring the God given talent that I have. Also, it’s all about giving back to Haiti, that’s really one of my biggest pushes at this point. I know that a medal at these games would do a lot for the Haitian pride. I really just want to be able to give that back.
Parlé: What would you say is your secret to balancing both the worlds of elite athletics and Ivy League academics?
Laine: The biggest trick is to compartmentalize things. It’s all about really keeping those two lives separate. When I’m at Law school I’m a student. Yet, when I’m on the track I’m a track athlete. Also, it’s really about minimizing procrastination. So if I found I had any idol time I’ll make sure to study. When I’m out on the track I’ll make sure my phone stays in the car. Just the little things to prevent myself from losing focus at the task at hand.
Parlé: Anyone who knows Track & Field knows that it’s a complete lifestyle. However, what sort of hobbies or activities could we find you doing outside of both practice and the classroom?
Laine: I’m a big video game fan. I love to play X-Box just to give myself a relief. I also consider myself to be a movie buff. I always try to keep up with the latest movie premieres. I love Hip-Hop and R & B. Plus I guess you could call me an aspiring author. Right now I’m working on my first book, which is an autobiography. So yeah, I have a lot of hobbies to keep me busy and relaxed.
Parlé: What advice would you give to a young student with aspirations to be an Olympian like yourself?
Laine: It’ll be to never sell yourself short or allow others to sell you short either. Keep pushing forward and just realize what your goal is and stay committed to that goal. So if you’re goal is to excel in academics then tell yourself that is what you’re going to do. If it’s to excel in athletics or both then tell yourself the same thing. In reality only you can hold yourself back.
Parlé: What message would you like to send to the rest of the world prepping for the triple-jump qualifying rounds on August 7th?
Laine: Just that I’m here and Haiti’s here. So expect a dog fight at the Olympic finals.
Let Laine’s story be a message to all the student athletes out today. Nothing is impossible. Greatness can be achieved in both the classroom as well as the athletic field. The secret is just staying focused and allowing yourself the chance to exceed. As Samyr mentioned, “You are the only one standing in your way.” Be daring, be brave, be downright unreasonable, be everything society would tell you, you cannot be. Then once you have succeeded, look back at all your doubters and tell them, “Not even the earth can shake me.”