Interview With an Olympian: Haiti’s Samyr Laine

Olympic triple jumper looks to bring gold to Haiti, As Ricardo A. Hazell reports in this article for   

Samyr Laine is an exceptional individual.

Let’s just go ahead and get that out of the way from the jump, figuratively speaking. Harvard class of 2006, University of Texas at Austin for grad school, and Georgetown University Law Center in 2010.

What? This is an article about an athlete, is it not? OK, then we’ll go with the athletics. He set a Harvard record in the triple jump during his time there and improved from 16.72 meters to 17.39 meters in the span of one competition in 2009. Such a feat, while not unheard of, is rare. Although Laine is a born in the United States he will represent Haiti in the triple jump at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Of the 4 of the 5 members on the Haitian Olympic team were born elsewhere.  I asked what prompted him to make such a decision represent Haiti.

“Well my first experience with international competition was at the Pan American Games in Rio Di Janero,” said Laine. “My parents were born there and I was raised as a Haitian-American, and not just an American who happens to have Haitian parents. The good I can do for Haiti, the pride I can raise, I want to try to inspire children in Haiti, in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

And what of the fame and notoriety that are certain to come Laine’s way should he win a medal? If he wins Haiti’s first Olympic medal in 84 years Laine’s celebrity status would be cemented.

“I’m not doing it for that,” he responded. “I’m doing it because it’s something that I feel is a necessity. I just want to inspire people and keep doing what I’m doing. Keep training hard and doing what I’m doing.”

Fair enough. Samyr Laine is primed to make history and uplift his country. Isn’t that what Olympic stories are made of? Well…not exactly. It starts with a whole lot of sweat, hard work and dedication. All of that and then some is what it takes to get to the podium.

“I have my training partner there and I have my coaches there. When you’re going into the Olympic games and you’re not consistent in your work outs then it’s going to be difficult when you’re going on that stage,” said Laine.
Hardwork in motion is what any athlete with a legitmate shot at a Olympic medal has to personify. Samyr says he will actually have to beat his personal best in order to even have a shot at a medal.

“My record is 17.39 meters which is about 57 feet and some change,” said Laine. “The distance that I think is going to take me to a medal is probably about 58 feet and some change. Considering how my training has been, I’m looking for a personal best and if that’s what it takes to get on that podium then that’s what I am prepared to do.”

Well we heard that. But everyone has a bad day, and Olympic athletes are no different, right? Wrong.

“There’s no such thing as a bad training day,” said Laine. “Every training day is a great training day. Every training day is a stepping stone towards my ultimate goal.”

And who other the other stepping stones toward that goal. The competition.

“Well there’s a bunch of competition coming from the U.S. and some competition coming from the European base. There’s a silver medalist from Great Britain, and a bronze medalist who happens to be a friend of mine from the Bahamas. But at the end of the day when I’m on the runway it’s just me. I can’t control how well other people do. I often tell people that I can set a world record, and 3 people can break it right behind me and I can be stuck without a medal.”

In doing the research to prepare for my interview I found out that Laine was a roomate of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. I mean, the guy was mentioned in every single article. I know, I know. Yes, I did mention him too. But only to point out how irritating that was. But if Samyr doesn’t care then maybe it’s nobody’s business.

“No, you know? When you’re ‘Time Magazine’s Person of the Year’ then that’s going to be the lead in to the story,” Samyr told “I don’t mind talking about him because then I can talk about the things that I’m working on. Whether it’s winning a medal at the Olympics, whether it’s my foundation or my autobiography. My ultimate goal is to put Haiti in the news and if Mark has to be that vehicle then so be it. Soon enough I’ll be a lead myself.

We guess he told us, huh? All jokes aside, Laine’s cause is noble and his intentions are pure. He is the champion of the nation his ancestors wrestled away from a world power in 1804. A nation that is in need of all the champions it can get. Publicity seeking celebrities may come and publicity seeking celebrities may go but Samyr Laine is trying to becoming a Haitian champion in all ways possible.

“Last time I was there was April of last year. So maybe 15 or 16 months ago. Right after the earthquake you could see a few positive things,” said Laine when asked of the progress Haiti is making. “You could see a lot of construction and things like that. But I went like a year after the earthquake and you could see that the clean up efforts were successful, you could see that the rebuilding efforts were successful. You could see many new houses that were built to be earthquake proof. You could see all those things. Nowadays you can see that the government is trying to highlight the positive aspects about the country, whether it’s the beaches or the music or the culture. They’re making a big push to regain some of the luster that the country had, and to regain it’s position as far as tourism is concerned. That’s all positive because they’re bringing services to the country. Like there’s a Best Western Premiere, which is opening in Port-Au-Prince, which will be one of the first American-branded hotels in the country.”

Athletes who compete in all sports are often looked upon as not being very cerebral, but that certainly cannot be said about Laine. In speaking with him, and listening to love for Haiti and his message of uplifting the people, I couldn’t help but think he would be a great politician.

“Politics is definitely not in my future. Even though I went to Harvard, went to law school and the game of politics is something that I personally detest. I understand that politics is a necessary game, but it’s not one that I enjoy playing.”

Guess that’s what I get for thinking, huh? We feel you on that one brother. It sounds like the tiny island nation of Haiti is showing a great deal of determination in rebounding from the earthquake disaster and regaining its position as a functioning state led by competent leaders. However, in the aftermath of the earthquake, the most powerful nations in the world pledged billions in aid but very little of it is in the hands of the Haitian government.

“In the immediate time period after a disaster it’s very difficult to look away, very difficult to ignore something,” said Laine when asked if much of the world had forgotten about Haiti…again. “Years later, once the country is no longer in the spotlight, people tend to forget. That’s not to say that countries are reneging on their promises or making false promises. They just need to be reminded. I hope to serve as a vehicle to make people pay attention and also I think that it’s not so much countries breaking their promises, but a lot of the money is caught up in a lot of red tape and bureaucracy.”

With a healing nation looking on Laine is ready to shock the world and medal. No pressure at all says.

“Actually, I don’t feel any pressure and, once I get to the Olympic Games I’m just going to rise to the occasion. It’s really business as usual. The runway is the same, the stands are the same. Thankfully I haven’t recieved any exterior pressure from the people of Haiti or the government itself. All that I get is support from people that they’re there for me and that they’re cheering for me and rooting for me. That helps me avoid any feelings of pressure that might be typical.”

Not only is Samyr going to be jumping for Haiti in a physical sense, he’s also looking to inspire the children of Haiti to want to jump as well with his Jump for Haiti Foundation.

“My foundation came about from a visit to Haiti,” said Laine. “I spent some time at an orphanage and the one thing that struck me was 99 percent of the kids had no idea what the Olympics were. For a Haitian raised in the states that’s mind blowing. You realize that the children are 100 percent innocent and ignorant to what exists outside of their shell. A large part of what they’re missing is sports and exposure to sports and things of that nature. It’s not like they have AAU basketball or Little League baseball or Pop Warner football. None of that exists in Haiti. The kids there are exposed to soccer, but even that isn’t very organized. The goal of Jump for Haiti is to expose children to different sports, giving them some coaching so they can improve in those sports, and hopefully eventually representing Haiti in the Olympic Games or at other international competitions. I want to lay the ground work for future athletes of Haiti. One of the reasons it’s called Jump for Haiti is to get people talking about it and excited about the possibilities that exist as far as Haiti’s children are concerned.”

The men’s triple jump competition will start on Tuesday, August 7th and we’ll be rooting for you. In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about Samyr and his foundation log on to

For the original report go to

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